Top Tips for February

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As we have witnessed already this month, the weather in February can throw everything at the gardener: heavy rain or snow, high winds, freezing temperatures, or sometimes just a beautiful, crisp, day which serves as a reminder that Spring is just around the corner (I have some daffodils peeking through the grass, so it’s not far away!). There’s plenty to do indoors this month to prepare for the season ahead (like sowing seeds and caring for young plants) and despite the uninviting weather outside, there’s plenty to be done in the garden, so brace yourself, wrap up warm and step outside!

If time is limited in the garden this month, here are our Top Ten tips:

1. Cut down the stems of herbaceous perennials to ground level.

2. Divide Spring bulbs such as Snowdrops and replant.

3. Prune Winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering.

4. Prune Wisteria.

5. Purchase Summer flowering bulbs and start into growth indoors.

6. Set up seed potatoes (to chit).

7. Prepare vegetable seed beds.

8. Protect peaches, nectarines and apricots from leaf curl.

9. If you want to sow your summer bedding from seed then now’s the time to start.

10. For those of you that prefer to grow your Summer bedding from plugs now is the time to buy, protect and ‘pot on’ in the greenhouse before they are ready to plant out in mid may.


If you have a little more time to spare…


BEDS AND BORDERS
A bit of time spent on your beds and borders now will reap huge benefits later in the year. Have a good tidy up of flower beds cutting down seed heads and other foliage retained for the birds and Winter interest. Retain mulch over the roots of flowers in case of a frost and to keep annoying weeds at bay. Top-dress plants in containers with compost.

Deadhead Winter Pansies and other Winter bedding plants. Pansies will carry on into the Spring and even to early Summer, if attended to frequently.

Divide congested Spring bulbs, such as Snowdrops, when they have finished flowering and replant them in new positions. Give Winter flowering Heathers a light trim when the flowers die off.


Cut down the stems of herbaceous perennials (to ground level) with secateurs and lightly dig a layer of compost around the roots.

It’s also a good time to prune a number of garden shrubs and climbers such as, Winter jasmine and Wistera after the flowers have faded, bush and climbing roses, Summer-flowering deciduous shrubs such as Buddleia, Hydrangea and Lavatera, and most Clematis. Delay pruning Spring-flowering shrubs as they might not grow back enough in time to provide a display of flowers.

Don’t forget to prune back Roses and Clematis that flowered late Summer and Autumn. Roses can be planted now, but try to avoid planting them in areas where roses have previously grown, to avoid diseases that might still be in the soil.

Now’s the time to buy Begonias and Dahlia tubers together with the huge variety of Summer flowering bulbs we have in stock. Although it’s too early to plant them in the garden, buy them now to ensure we have the range of varieties you require. Begonias and Dahlias can be started into growth indoors now and the resulting shoots used for cuttings. Don’t forget to stock up on pots, labels, twine, compost and all the other sundries you’ll ned to get the best out of them.


GARDEN STRUCTURES
With all the pruning going on, it might be a good idea to pick up any tools you’ll need such as secateurs, pruning saws, loppers and gloves.

Another job worth doing now is checking your fences, trellis’ and pergolas before climbers burst into growth and make the job trickier. You can make any repairs or improvements as necessary as well as install any new features you want for the coming year. A member of the team is always happy to give you details of what we have in stock.


In dry spells, it would be a good opportunity to rub down and treat wooden garden furniture. You could also treat timber structures with wood preservative and stain. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated space and make sure you use appropriate products – a member of staff is always happy to advise.

Get your ideas down on paper! This month is your last opportunity to see the bare skeleton of your garden before all the perennials and new leaves emerge so plan your garden projects for the year ahead!


WILDLIFE
You could take this opportunity to dig a new pond – the Spring rains may help to fill it. A minimum depth of 60cm (2ft) at the deepest point, will reduce the risk of the pond freezing to its full depth. It is important to keep an area ice free so that the fish can breathe. Gently sloping contours between the shallow and deep areas, and between the bank and the water, are more wildlife-friendly.


Keep your bird feeders and baths topped up and maybe plant some new berrying trees and shrubs.

Build a compost bin.


EDIBLE PLANTS
Now is the time to start the ball rolling with potatoes. Set up your seed potatoes (we have 17 varieties in stock here at Coolings!) in trays or egg boxes in a cool light frost free place (to chit). This will encourage sturdy sprouts to slowly form on the rounded end of the potato, worth doing for the first and second earlies.


You can also make a start on producing tasty vegetables for the Summer. Dig any unworked vacant ground and dig and store any unharvested root crops. Don’t be too impatient to start sowing outside, instead warm the soil ready for sowing by covering it with clear polythene or plastic cloches. A few early vegetable varieties such as shallots can be sown outdoors now but it might be an idea to warm up the soil and sow a greater range next month instead (such as an early crop of peas, broad beans, radishes or parsnips).

Established fruit trees such as apples and pears (but not cherries or plums) should have dead or diseased wood cut out now, as well as any branches that spoil the structure. This will reduce disease and let light into the crown to help ripen the fruit later in the year.

If your peaches, nectarines or apricots suffered from leaf curl last year, spray them now with a copper based fungicide before colour is present, in the emerging flower buds.

Plan your herb garden and pot up the seeds in a greenhouse. Prepare a site outside in your garden to transfer the herbs later on (they grow best in warm, still air, so any established perennials such as Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender will provide great shelter for annual varieties).


LAWNCARE
Remove debris and leaves deposited by recent strong winds and deeply spike with a fork to aid drainage. Keep brushing away worm casts, as they can be troublesome at this time of year.

Re-cut lawn edges to crisp up the appearance of the garden and save work later in the season.

Ensure your mower is serviced.


IN THE GREENHOUSE
Your clean, repaired greenhouse should now be ready for the rigours of the coming season. Plan out your forthcoming planting sequence.

We have a large range of young starter plants (plug plants) coming in the w/c 20th February, which will be ready to plant outside about mid may, until then they will need to be protected (ideally in a greenhouse but a window sill will do) so keep a look out for plug plants that are ready for potting on. For information on our young starter plants click here.

Now’s a good time to make a start on sowing Summer bedding indoors, as long as you can provide the right heat and light conditions. You can sow sweet peas, dianthus, lobelia, ageratum and bedding geraniums. Don’t forget to pick up everything you will need such as propagators, compost, pots, seed trays and labels. For more advice on sowing from seed click here.


SEASONAL PROCUCE
Keep it Local Events are here at Coolings on the 25th February. The Farmers market is at Coolings on every fourth Saturday of the month from 10 – 4pm. You will find stalls selling fresh, locally sourced or made foods. Tip top fresh meat, fish, bread and cakes, fruit and vegetables grown for flavour rather than volume, juicy jams and chutneys and varieties of locally brewed beers. You will find plenty of fresh seasonal produce.

(In season this month: Cabbage esp. Savoy, Forced rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Swede, Haddock, mussels, Guinea Fowl, rabbit, venison)

LOOK OUT IN STORE FOR:
Coolings Early Bird Sale - runs until the end of February. Fantastic plant and shop offers not to be missed. 

Young Starter Plants
If you enjoy fresh plants and vegetables but don’t have the time or inclination to nurse a plant from seed then our young plant ranges are the perfect option for you! For the keen gardener, our starter plants give you more satisfaction than buying finished plants, as you watch your floral creations develop and bloom, and saves you money without the stress of propagating from seed or cuttings.
The young plants will be ready to plant out from about mid may, until then they will need to be protected (ideally in a greenhouse but a window sill will do).

Starter plants grow into larger, stronger plants earlier in the season, producing superior crops. We have a large selection of young starter plants now in stock at Coolings (from the W/C 20th February), The Gardener’s Garden Centre including ornamental and vegetable plug packs and individual patio and hanging basket plants. Young plants are an easy, economical way to ensure your garden is full of long lasting, vibrant summer colour.

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