What to do in the garden in February
The dark days of winter are thankfully and finally coming to an end, and keen gardeners everywhere are starting to turn their minds to the tasks ahead, beginning now in February. Let's take a look at some of the areas that you may need to consider for planting and maintenance as the weather slowly starts to warm up and the growing season gets under way.
Trees and shrubs
Certainly after all the rolling storms of this winter, one of the main tasks in the garden will be to inspect and care for your trees and shrubs. There may well be a good deal of damage to boughs and branches and where there is, you'll have to cut them right back. For tall trees that have damage in places you can't reach, it's not advisable to go climbing the tree with your cutting equipment. Instead, use the professional services of your local tree surgeon or garden maintenance firm, and protect yourself from harm. Most shrubs have little or no growth during the winter, and so a quick inspection or trim is all that’s required, as well as removing anything the high winds may have blown into them. However, shrubs grown for their winter colours, such as Salix and Cornus (“Winter Flame”), will need to be cut back around now.
Perennials, biennials and annuals
How have your perennials and biennials fared over the blustery winter? Your annuals will have seeded and died by the end of last Autumn, of course, and if there's anything remaining of them, it's time to clean those areas by removing what's left of the flowers or plants. The same goes for your biennials, if they've reached the end of their two-year life cycle or are near it and in a sorry-looking state. Your perennials include your trees and shrubs, but you may well also have herbaceous perennials, plants that will soon be springing back to life after having died back last autumn – prepare and clear the ground around them so their growth is not impeded once the shoots appear. You should be giving your flower beds the once-over, making sure they’re not strewn with all sorts of matter blown about by storms, and are ready for the new season’s growth.
Vegetables and fruit
There's lots to do in the fruit and vegetable garden in February. If you grow rhubarb, you can now get cracking planting new crowns, so you can look forward to a crop early in the year. You can also mulch your perennials, by applying compost or manure. There won't be many weeds around at this time of the year, but still go through your planting areas for any that may be starting to poke through the ground, and remove them ahead of sowing onion, leek and similar seeds – ensuring they're protected from the elements with some kind of cover. As for the fruit part of the garden, your trees will still be sleeping, so you can go ahead and prune them – pear and apple trees especially, leaving others till later. Fruit-producing bushes, such as gooseberry and blackcurrant, can also be pruned now. Want succulent raspberries for the summer? Get planting canes now!
You can also start thinking about your lovely lawn at this time of year. Given the huge amount of rainfall we've experienced over the last few months, it's likely yours is still fairly waterlogged and not yet suitable for mowing. But if you're lucky enough to be in a drier part of the country and your lawn is in good condition (not bogged down with rain), there's no harm in giving it a quick trim with your mower now. Inspect your lawn for moss that may have sprung up during the damp winter, and if you have some, you'll need to sprinkle iron sulphate to kill it off – grass in the area will turn black, but don't worry, as it soon grows green again. You may also have to spray a weedkiller to deal with anything else that's cropped up over the winter, and areas of the lawn that have become uneven due to wear can be flattened out.
Other bits and bobs
What else do you need to concern yourself with in your garden in February? Lots – a gardener's work is never done! Have hedges? Trim them now, and the same goes for any vines you may have about the place – important so they don't grow into gutters or tiles on the roof and cause problems, as well as obscuring views from windows. If you're not already doing it, feed the birds. They're hungry, and you definitely want them to like your garden and be on your side, so they'll keep coming and eating up all those pests that could destroy your fruit, vegetables and flowers. Fat balls are great for birds at this time of year, as well as hanging feeders, and provide a source of water. Also give some attention to your compost heap or bins, and check areas of your garden that could do with some hard landscaping maintenance.
A good gardener is one who plans well ahead, and now is the time to start doing that – not just for this year, but next year as well. Think about how you see the development of your garden, what you want to add and possibly take away from it. Haphazard planting is not really the best option, and so go through catalogues, whether online or in print, from your local garden centre, and decide what you want to do. A good tip here is to get your hands on a soil-testing kit, to find out exactly what type of soil you have, as there’s not much point planting or sowing in the wrong kind – plants just won’t do well. The kits don’t cost much and test the acidity of the soil and the water in it. When you have all that done, you can then plan out your garden and start ordering new plants for the following year. Then sit back and enjoy all the fruits of your great labour.