As spring approaches, GINA PARKINSON finds that there are jobs to be done inside and out
THERE are plenty of jobs to be getting on with in the February garden, outside and indoors. If the weather is mild enough, then work on the flower beds can be finished with all the old winter stems and leaves cleared leaving them ready for the new season.
There will be lots going on under this cover which has provided winter interest, but it now needs to make way for spring. It’s exciting to see new growth appearing, even if it means we have to get onto hands and knees to get a view. It won’t be long before the beds are filled again with colourful blooms.
Ornamental grasses can be cut back now. Many provide year-round interest and if a careful look is taken at the base of the plant, new leaves will be spotted nestling in last year’s stems and foliage. If the plants are trimmed before the new growth gets too large the old bleached leaves and stalks can simply be cut away with sharp secateurs, or shears if the plant is large.
In a sheltered spot new growth may have already got quite tall, so it is best to snip away more carefully to avoid damaging too many of the emerging leaves. The bristling clumps that remain look a little strange for a while but they will soon recover.
In the vegetable garden
IT IS time to start chitting seed potatoes so they are ready to plant out in a couple of months. Chitting is where seed potatoes are put into a light place so they can begin to sprout.
Egg boxes or trays are ideal for standing them up in in a single layer. Choose the strongest buds or buds on each potato to expose to the light, these will already be apparent, and over the next few weeks they will slowly increase in size.
The traditional day for planting out potatoes is Good Friday, but as this falls at the end of March this year it is a little early. Generally the advice it to start putting potatoes in no sooner than a month before the last frost is forecast. In our region this would be a mid to late April planting as the danger of frost can continue until mid to late May.
FEBRUARY is a good time to sort out seed packets, replenish old stocks and buy in fresh seed compost.
The recent trials carried out by Which? Gardening magazine on seed compost showed the top two to be J. Arthur Bowers Seed and Cutting Compost (95 per cent peat content) and Verve (B&Q) Grow Your Own Growing Bag (55 per cent peat content), so I am giving the latter a go. The best peat-free compost in the trial was Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Grow Concentrated Enriched Compost.
A few seeds can be sown this month so it is a good idea to check the back of the packets and sort them out according to sowing times. Then sowing can begin and soon all the windowsill and spare floor space will be filled with trays. This may cause annoyance amongst non-gardeners, but how exciting it is to see the tiny new leaves as they emerge.
Askham Bryan College (ABC) Gardening Club will hold their February meeting on Tuesday with an illustrated talk by Gill Hodgson entitled Flowers From The Field. Gill is on a mission to put British seasonal flowers back into our vases and with this in mind she launched her company Fieldhouse Flowers two years ago. On the family farm in Everingham, East Yorkshire, Gill grows more than 80 varieties of flowers for cutting. The talk which begins at 7.30pm will be held in the Conference Centre at Askham Bryan College YO23 3FR. Admission is free to ABC Gardening Club members, £5 on the door for non-members.
Gardening TV and radio
8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.
9am, BBC Radio York, Mark Forrest. With gardening advice from Martin Fish, Nigel Harrison and Lizzie Tulip.
9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.
2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guinness, Christine Walkden and chairman Eric Robson offer advice at The Seedy Sunday event in Brighton.
8.30pm, C4, Wild Things. Chris Myers is joined by Sally Eaton and Trevor Dines in the Yorkshire Dales where they explore ancient wildflower meadows through the eyes of a bee.
3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Chairman Peter Gibbs is joined by Chris Beardshaw, Pippa Greenwood and Bunny Guinness to advise gardeners from Milton Keynes.