What to do in the garden – February

February can be a mild month and bring an early spring, or it may turn very cold slowing the appearance of early spring bulbs. Your garden activities will be very much dictated by the temperature.

As the soil starts to warm outside weed seeds will start to germinate, this is nature’s signal to gardeners that spring is starting, the soil is warm enough to start growing seeds outside and it’s time to go gardening.

Even so, the odd cold snap can still have us reaching for the fleece to protect early sowings. Always make sure you have a contingency plan, never sow the whole packet of seed in one sowing just in case the weather takes a downturn and you have a crop failure. With more seeds in the packet you’ve always got a second or third chance for success. We have a full range of seeds in stock that can be grown on easily.

Other things to do in the garden this month:-

  • Don’t forget to feed the birds to sustain them through the winter
  • Buy seed potatoes and chit them ready for planting.
  • Prune back summer flowering Clematis.
  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries and feed with Sulphate of Potash plant food.
  • Give established blackcurrants their annual prune, aim to prune out a quarter of the old stems
  • Finish planting any bare root fruit canes, bushes and trees
  • Plant out onion sets.
  • Sow outdoors veg. seeds such as broccoli, early carrots, cut and come again lettuce, parsnips
  • Sow peppers, aubergines, chillies and tomatoes indoors to give you the earliest plants for growing in the greenhouse
  • Sow broad beans individually in 3in pots and leave to germinate on the windowsill
  • Top dress containers by replacing top inch with new compost
  • Mulch beds and borders with a Chipped Bark

Jobs to do in January

January in the garden
A new year and new beginnings, whatever is going on in the wider world the garden is constant joy as it changes through the year.  Working in the vegetable garden or on the allotment gives a huge uplift to the spirit especially as you gather in the crops you have grown. Get your children involved in the garden by giving them a small area to tend and pass on your enthusiasm for gardening.

January is a good time to take stock of the garden and make plans for the coming year.  Keeping a diary of the successes and failures in the garden is a great idea to so that you avoid repeating the mistakes you made in the garden, and more to the point develop on your successes. Use it to record sowing dates, varieties used and harvest dates. Use it too to make notes of your friends gardening successes or things you see when you visit gardens. If you like visiting gardens have a look at the National Garden Scheme website . Across the UK gardens of all shapes and sizes open to the public for charity under the NGS banner.

The end of January sees the arrival of seed potatoes. The range of varieties can seem daunting – but don’t be afraid to ask for help.

January can see the pesky pigeon eating the leaves of cabbages, sprouts and sprouting broccoli. To protect the place netting strung tautly over the top of the crops and down the sides.

Start to prepare Rhubarb for forcing. Select a root or two of rhubarb and add a mulch layer of material from your compost heap to around 15cm (6”) deep. Top off with a rhubarb forcer,  buckets or large pots to help force some early stems that will come through pink and tender.

Other things to do in the garden this month

  • Prune Apples, Pears, Currants and Gooseberries.
  • Cover beds with cloches or polythene to warm the soil ready for early sowing.
  • Sow early veg under cover: for example, Leeks, Onions , Strawberries, Tomatoes and Broad Beans.
  •  Take root cuttings from perennials including oriental poppies, pulsatilla and echinops.
  • Keep a check on newly planted roses and shrubs.
  • Put out food and water for wild birds.
  • Aerate lawn taking care not to stand on waterlogged areas.
  • Keep plants in containers protected from frost and check weekly to see whether they need watering.
  • Feed established trees in late January with Growmore Garden Fertiliser.

GARDENING ADVICE – OCTOBER

October in the Garden

 

Leaves of trees and shrubs are turning russet colour and berries are bright orange and scarlet. As we prepare for the first frosts of the winter it’s time to protect tender plants and tidy up beds and borders as we replace summer bedding with spring bulbs, winter pansies and wallflowers.

 

Beds and Borders

 

Cone flowers (Echinacea) and rudbeckia now have a recently increased colour range that with fresh breeding includes oranges and yellow shades as well as the more usual pinks. Helenium, sedum and asters (often called michaelmas daisies) will also be giving a last display. Many of these autumn flowering plants are susceptible to powdery mildew attack, especially when the soil is dry, and should be sprayed with a fungicide at the first signs of the white deposit.

Perennial autumn anemones often called Japanese anemones make a great display at this time of the year in white or magenta pink blooms.  These can tolerate a fair amount of shade.

It’s time to clear out summer bedding plants as they finish flowering or when the first frosts turn leaves black. Place all annual flower plants onto the compost heap and dig out as many weeds as possible.

Dahlia tubers do not survive harsh winters and if they are to survive from year to year need to be lifted now and stored in a frost free shed or garage. Dig up the tubers and knock off as much soil as possible with a blunt stick. Cut back the stem to leave just 15cm (6”) and turn this upside down so that all moisture drains from the hollow stem. Leave in an airy place for a fortnight to allow the tubers to dry off completely before dusting with sulphur powder and wrapping individually in newspaper. Place in a cardboard box in a frost-free position.

Gladioli corms and begonia corms should be treated in the same way, as these too are subject to frost damage and storage rots.

If you have a sheltered conservatory or a well-lit porch you could pot up tender fuchsias to extend their useful life in a protected frost-free position. Before planting the roots in pots of fresh Miracle-Gro All Purpose Potting Compost check over the roots to ensure they are free of vine weevil grubs. These crescent-shaped white bugs with brown heads can be left on the lawn for the birds to feed on.

When the beds are clear take the opportunity to dig in well-rotted organic matter from your compost heap or similar material bought in bags such as Levington Soil Conditioner or Miracle-Gro Soil Improver.

In the cleared flower borders plant daffodils, narcissi, hyacinths and crocus early in October so they can develop a good, strong root system while your soil is relatively warm. To prevent these glorious spring bulbs from getting weaker and weaker each year feed the soil now so these new roots can absorb balanced nutrients throughout the winter. For maximum growth add a slow release plant food so that the plant can draw nutrients during autumn and again in the spring when growth is strong and the bulb is creating the flower buds that will form the blooms for the subsequent year’s display. If your soil is short of organic matter then digging in Bulb Booster Compost will provide a reservoir of moisture and nutrients.

Autumn is the best time of year for planting trees and shrubs. The cooler temperatures above ground mean that shoots, stems and leaves are only growing slowly – whereas below ground the soil temperature stays warm enough to encourage the growth and spread of roots.

 

Patio

 

Hyacinths and late-flowering tulips are not best displayed in the flower border, but are perfect for pots. The waxy petals of highly perfumed hyacinths need to be proudly displayed close to the house so that you get full benefit from their beauty and heady scent. Likewise tulips that bloom in May are just a nuisance in flower borders as you may be itching to clear the bed ready for summer flowers just when they are at the peak of their show.

Because different varieties of tulips bloom at different times mixing them up is not the way to achieve the optimum display. Why not plant up one variety per container and then move the pots around so that those showing flowers are moved to the front of your patio display. Variety names of tulips seem to develop year after year so recommending varieties become more and more difficult.

Early flowering starts in March or April with dwarf Greigii and Kaufmanniana tulips such as Red Riding Hood, Cape Cod (red with yellow flushed edges) and Pinocchio (red with white edges). Depending on the number of containers you have to fill you could continue with the May blooming Darwin Hybrids such as Apeldoorn (red) Apeldoorn Delight (yellow flushed with red or Olympic Flame (bright yellow streaked with red). Latest of all are the lily-flowered tulips that have reflexed and pointed petals that form urn-shaped flowers on tall wiry stems. Queen of Sheba is red with white highlights, while Maytime is lilac mauve with the same white edges. Perhaps most attractive of all is the soft pink blooms of China Pink.

After planting your spring bulbs it is well worth topping off the container with spring bedding such as wallflowers, winter pansies or double daisies (bellis). These will not only provide a contrasting flower form but will also give some physical support to the tall stems of some of these tulips.

Lawn

 

Keep the lawn and surrounding flower borders free of fallen leaves as much as possible. This will reduce the possibility of bare patches developing on the grass and reduce the hiding places for harmful slugs and snails.

Now that grass growth has slowed down you can improve the drainage on the lawn by spiking the whole area with a garden fork driven into the soil at least 10cm (4”). Autumn rains will penetrate deep down and lawns that have been parched during the hot, dry summer will quickly recover from drought conditions.

If your soil is heavy clay it’s a good idea to fill these holes with sharp sand to keep the new drainage holes open and aerate compacted areas. Not only does this allow more air into the root area but it allows more water to easily penetrate to root level. Improving drainage will also help to reduce the spread of mosses on damp soil surfaces and increase the effectiveness of moss killers.

Gardening Advice- September

September is often blessed with warm days, even an Indian summer, but can be accompanied with cold clear nights. Autumn is just around the corner and rain can be very much a feature of this time of year.

If there are gaps in the garden there is still plenty of colour available at Woodbank Nurseries, including the reds and yellows of rudbeckias, Echinacea and helenium as well as a wide range of Michaelmas daisies (Asters). However do be aware that these late bloomers can be susceptible to powdery mildew. If so there are several remedies for this including Fungus Clear Ultra.

Now’s the time to think about planting trees and shrubs. The soil is both moist and warm which is ideal to help establish plants. They will make lots of root now so that by the time next spring comes they will grow away well. They also won’t suffer as much if the following year turns out to be dry either.

Spring flowering bulbs are now available. The range is huge so don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Some bulbs such as daffodils, snowdrop, winter aconite, crocus and anemone blanda appreciate being planted in September. Don’t forget that bulbs such as daffodils and crocus can be planted in grassed areas to give you dull lawn areas a splash of colour in the spring.

Winter flowering pansies are available too – if they are planted early they will tend to flower through the autumn and into the winter. Later plantings tend not to flower until late winter early spring. However watch that if the weather does turn hot that they don’t get too drawn, to stop this happening reduce the amount of water you give them as this will help to keep the pansy plants compact.

 

Here are some more tips on what to do in the garden this month

  • Lift onions and dry on rack.
  • Continue to harvest vegetables such as peas and runner beans.
  • Harvest first apples and pears if ready.
  • Propagate new strawberry plants by selecting runners.
  • Continue to tie in and support tomato plants, peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and melons as they develop, especially as fruit starts to swell or they will quickly topple over and be damaged
  • Water and feed tomatoes.
  • Protect salad plants from slugs and snails.
  • Keep feeding your container plants,
  • Prune late summer flowering shrubs after flowering.
  • Prune Wisteria now to encourage the development of new flowering spurs for next year’s display of flowers.
  • Keep an eye on any new plants in the garden and be sure to water them if the weather is dry.