EARLY FEBUARY IN YOUR GARDEN

With spring on the way, it's worth preparing your lawn for the season ahead. Try installing lawn edging which creates a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier.

  • Sprinkle sulphate of potash fertiliser around fruit bushes and trees.
  • Crops to sow in heated propagators include tomatoes, aubergines, onions, celery, and peppers.
  • Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins - clip them to within a few centimetres of the ground.
  • Prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot.
  • Sow seeds of broad beans, carrots, hardy peas and parsnips outside in soil that's been warmed with cloches.
  • Lift and divide snowdrops still 'in the green' if you want to move them.
  • Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds and forking in plenty of compost. Cover prepared soil with sheets of black plastic to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for spring planting.
  • If you garden on heavy clay soil but want to make an early start in the garden, build raised beds before the growing season gets under way. The soil will warm up faster and raised beds drain quickly too.
  • If all you can see from your windows are unattractive sheds, composting areas, and bins this winter, think about using evergreen climbers such as Clematis Armandii or Clematis 'Freckles' to screen the area, or just to add winter interest. Bamboo plants also make a fantastic screen.
  • The weather is still cold this month so hang fat balls and keep bird feeders topped up to attract birds who will, in turn, eat pests in your garden.
  • Cut down willows and dogwoods.

Gardeners always like something new, but before I mention just a few for this year, I must start with one of my old favourites, lily of the valley. This plant has withstood the tests of time because of its beauty, if you have never seen them they are a bit like tufts of giant snowdrops which are highly scented, flowering in May/ June. Simple to grow and they will always do best in a little shade of trees or shrubs. Now is the time to get them in bulb form. I find if you leave it too late in spring the bulbs will have dried out in their packs. Now onto things edible, this year I think it best to plant potatoes that you won’t have to spray for blight. There are a number of varieties that are blight resistant and are still tasty. ‘Setanta’ is a good one for the midlands. Home-grown carrots are so, so tasty; I can never have enough of them. There is one variety called ‘Eskimo’ which by its name reveals that it will tolerate cold, it can be left in the ground thereby intensifying its flavour and can be harvested throughout the winter as needed.  Another carrot well worth considering especially if grown under cover is called ‘Nantes Frubund’ which is a very early cropper and can be sown now. Back to thinks more beautiful, new for 2013 is Thompson and Morgan’s Petunia ‘sparklers’ which has been chosen as flower of the year. This petunia has unique star shaped vibrantly coloured flowers, a great blast of colour to enhance your borders or containers all summer long. Last but not least, pink is always a winner in summer baskets  and this year Begonia ‘aromantics’ has it all, it’s a pink trailing begonia but now comes highly scented. It can be bought now in bulb form. Spring is closer than it might seem, so it’s time to get going!

February