February is often the coldest month and the middle of winter but there is light at the end of the tunnel! You may have noticed that slowly but surely, the days have started to lengthen and this means the garden is starting to grow. So now is time to plan for your coming gardening year and to order seeds and plants. Get ready to pull on your warm clothes, enjoy the fresh air, and go outside to get things moving! See below for our best tips to get a head start on your garden.
Top 8 jobs this month:
1. Check your winter protection, stakes, ties and supports are still working after any severe weather.
2. Clean pots and greenhouses ready for spring. It may not be the most glamorous of winter tasks but cleaning out greenhouses, gutters and water butts is an important one. Cleaning greenhouses, whether glass or plastic, greatly improves the growing environment for plants. By removing the algae, moss and grime it lets in more light and helps control pests and diseases too.
3. Dig over any vacant plots that have not been dug already. Soil cultivation or digging may be hard work but, if taken slowly, it need not be back-breaking.
4. Disperse worm casts in lawns. Earthworms are useful in the garden, including in most lawns. However, worms casts on fine low-cut turf are considered by some gardeners to be a nuisance. The action of worms in the garden is beneficial and so casting worms should be tolerated wherever possible. In most cases worm casts can be broken up and dispersed with a wire rake, using it with the teeth facing upwards and moving the rake from side to side over the lawn surface.
5. Prune apple and pear trees in winter, when the leaves are off the tree. Pruning an apple or pear tree can be daunting for many gardeners. Rather than be put off completely or panic and inadvertently harm the tree back by excessive pruning, remember to take your time and stay safe – if you need to go up a ladder, consider investing in a special fruit tripod ladder that will let you get nice and close to the branches (great for picking fruit too).
6. Fancy some rhubarb crumble? Start forcing your rhubarb! Rhubarb needs an open, sunny site with moist, but free-draining soil as it hates being waterlogged in winter. Avoid frost pockets as stems are susceptible to frost.
7. Plan your vegetable crop rotations for the coming season. The principle of crop rotation is to grow specific groups of vegetables on a different part of the vegetable plot each year. This helps to reduce a build-up of crop-specific pest and disease problems and it organises groups of crops according to their cultivation needs.
8. Keep putting out food and water for hungry birds. By putting out additional food, gardeners can make a significant contribution to supporting wildlife over winter. It is also a great way to watch wildlife even in the smallest of gardens or balconies, often at very close quarters.