TAKING CARE OF YOUR GARDEN IN FEBRUARY
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Add height, structure and year-round interest to your garden, with a specimen tree.

Spring is fast approaching and shortly it will be time for planting out vegetable plants and seeds.  If you are a beginner and not just sure on how to start and which system to use, I hope you will find the following recommendations helpful.   The first bit of advice I would give anyone contemplating starting a vegetable patch for the first time is to think small.  There is nothing more off-putting than a large area at the bottom of the garden becoming an unproductive mess.  If you start small, sow varieties that are easy to grow, you will be making mistakes on a small scale and the success you have will encourage you to extend the area and if you decide that’s it’s just not for you the job of putting the area back into grass or maybe using it as a fruit growing area won’t be as daunting.  If you are starting off don’t expect to get it right all the time and as I have already said start with the easier crops salads, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, radishes, garlic, peas and beans and many more.  The location of your vegetable plot, the depth, and fertility of the soil are of paramount importance.  Vegetables will not do well if you grow them in too much shade and you will be disappointed with the return from heavy, wet soil.  Having chosen a reasonably sunny spot, preparation is next. If the area is in grass, this will have to be killed off, use Roundup or Resolva, they do the job efficiently and do not leave harmful residues in the soil.  At this stage you have to then decide are you going to do raised beds, lazy beds or ridges.  Let me explain all three and why one is preferable over the other.  Raised beds are a modern phenomenon , are usually constructed using some kind of timber, a typical raised bed would be 12-14 feet long, 4-6 feet wide and 1, 2 or 3 feet high filled with soil,  for all the world it’s a large box with no bottom.  This type of bed has lots of advantages, it’s easier to work on raised beds because of the height, you don’t have to bend as much.  The soil is usually drier which makes it easier to work with especially earlier in the season.  However, there are a number of possible disadvantages, the cost of the timber and the necessity to fill them with soil.  They dry out quicker than ground level beds so you may have to water more during the summer and some crops especially the ones that need a lot of room like potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli do better on level ground.  Raised beds are ideal for salads and varieties that like drier ground if your garden has to be shared with pets they’re a better option. Next week we will concentrate on lazy beds or ridges and the recipe for soil fertility.

February