Gardening Advice | February
Our resident plant expert, Phil McCann, shares his top tips as you head out into the garden this February.
Top February Gardening Tips:
- Weed veg beds
- Split snowdrops
- Start early gladioli
- Lay turf
- Sow chillies and aubergines
- Plant roses
- Sow cauliflowers and leeks
- Sow geranium seeds
- Sow delphinium seeds
- Deadhead pansies
Overview of February:
February should always contain a warning. The temptation to ‘just put a few seeds in the soil’ is at its greatest as we get the occasional warmer day and the light is definitely getting longer. But it can be cold, the soil especially so, and seeds are in danger of simply rotting where they fall. However, lots can be done on windowsills and in greenhouses to satisfy the impatient. February is a month to be wary of but embrace as the forerunner to what will be a super spring.
Weed veg beds:
Weeds are growing and it’s a great idea to spend a few minutes every day taking them out of your veg beds. When it comes to sowing and planting, your beds will be relatively weed free leaving seedlings to thrive without competition.
If your snowdrops are losing their flowering capacity and looking congested, the best time to split them is as they just go past flowering. Ease the clump out of the soil and gently tease apart into individual plants and smaller clumps. Replant these at the same level in the soil elsewhere in the garden. They will continue to grow and will flower more strongly than the original clump.
Start gladioli corms into growth by gently removing the papery tunics surrounding the eyes or buds. Being dry, this tunic flakes away easily. Then place them in wooden trays or empty seed trays in a frost-free spot. It’s the same idea as chitting your spuds - get the first buds swelling and growing, and you know the corms are good and ready to be planted out in the soil in a few weeks.
If it isn’t waterlogged, isn't freezing and frost isn’t forecast, it is a good time to get turf laid. Lots of ‘isn’ts’ in there but it’s worth it. The roots get growing quickly and there will be plenty of spring showers to get everything established before summer. However, the success of lain turf is actually in the soil preparation. Remove stones, weeds, any debris, rake it, rake it again, allow to settle and repeat! Once top dressed with loam, to even out the inevitable lumps and bumps, then top quality turf is the answer. It is a big job but worth it. The alternative is sowing grass seed but that’s for next month.
Sow chillies and aubergines:
Both need long growing seasons to produce good crops, and ideally sunny, warm summers, so both need starting off now. A warm windowsill or thermostatically controlled propagator are ideal as heat is required. Once seedlings are up they need as much light as you can provide - this prevents leggy growth. Seeds take around 10 days to germinate.
Roses are still dormant and will not notice you knocking them out of their pots and putting into the soil. They are also the perfect gift for your loved one on Valentine's Day (the longevity of a plant always beats the ephemeral nature of cut flowers). Prepare the planting hole by removing any stones, place a banana skin in the base of the hole, dust the roses' roots with mycorrhizal fungi and plant. The banana skin? That rots down and provides a slow release of fertilizer as the rose grows. The mycorrhizal fungi? Don’t get me going - I never plant without it.
Sow cauliflowers and leeks:
Both these veg need a long growing season and both can be started off now. Some gardeners sow a pinch of seed into pots and then have to thin out the weak seedlings. I trust in the seed and sow one seed per single pot or cell - seeds are big enough to handle (with my glasses on to make it all that bit clearer) and the quality of fresh seed is superb. I expect 100% germination! Plus, cauliflowers in particular don't like being moved and jostled - so I reckon you get a better crop from undisturbed seedlings. All they need is a little bit of heat from a propagator and they will soon be growing strongly.
Sow geranium seeds:
I actually mean the bedding type of geraniums, or pelargoniums. One seed per pot of quality peat-free compost, popped into a windowsill propagator or heated version, and within two weeks you'll spot the green shoots. And nothing beats the feeling of seeing seedlings emerge (not even now after seeing thousands upon thousands of seedlings emerge). Then, in summer, you will have the best baskets and containers ever.
Sow delphinium seeds:
Actually, the top tip might be to clear more windowsill space. Or install more windows and relevant sills to the house. Yep, it’s another case of seed trays filled with quality compost, delphinium seed sown lightly on top, a gentle dusting of compost on top and a light misting over with lukewarm water. Cover, put on a windowsill, in a warm greenhouse and wait. Seedlings soon appear and you will get some flowers this year, but a better display next year.
Pansies have been flowering all over winter and if you nip off the old flower heads (deadheading) they will continue to do so for a couple of months. And that takes us all into the heart of spring when the pansies can take a breather.