February 2017

February Gardener

Narcissus -Daffodil

  Spring is in the air in the northern hemisphere.   Narcissus (daffodils) and crocus are popping their heads up – Winter aconite (Eranthis hyamelis), fragrant Hyacinths, even tulip bulbs are showing green shoots, Alliums and Anemonies are just beginning to peep out of the soil, it really is an exciting time of year. Sarcococca – Christmas Box is very fragrant, early flowering Camellia a great pleasure on a cold February walk around your garden and don’t forget winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima with fragrant white and yellow flowers. Hellebores and Pullmonaria will soon be emerging adding some welcome colour.  Bees just love Pullmonaria so search for them to plant you will be rewarded with pollinators
Ranunculus-montanus-Molten-Gold-

In the Kitchen Garden  Plant bare root fruit and cane fruit trees if soil is warm.  Fruit trees such as apple and cherry should be planted in pairs for vital pollination. Leave plenty of room for growth and add organic matter for the roots to  establish over 6 to 12 months.  Add lime to brassica beds, plant shallots and sow peas in the greenhouse.   Re-pot clumpy mint and leggy over-wintered herbs.

Sarcococca confusa

How content are you with your garden?  What do you really want to achieve? Will a simple plan enable you to make changes and improvements and provide interesting ideas for thought and discussion? Was last year’s gardening experience up to expectation?  Can you remember ideas you thought might motivate you to make those exciting changes you always wanted to?  It’s not too late to make decisions for the coming gardening year – a good plant search may be required to add to your planting for spring and summer.

Garden centres offer the plants that can be put in to your beds now and which are constantly changing with the season so it’s well worth a pleasant trip out each month to help with planning, plant choices and to enjoy a good cuppa and slice of cake!

Structural and planting changes for your garden.  Do you want to create more space?  Do some raised beds need adding, especially if growing tap root vegetables, the Umbelliferae – Apiaceae family, parsnips, celery etc require depth which also helps to stop carrot fly attacking storage organs.

Soil  and feeding – Acid Alkali or Neutral – try to do a pH check with an inexpensive testing kit.  Take a small sample of soil, add some distilled water and shake then use the indicator to see what soil pH you have.  Also is it sandy or clay or is it nice and mixed and crumbly?  Add plenty of fresh compost and manure especially to Rose beds – your plants will soon respond.  I especially recommend slow release fertiliser granules from February onwards as soil starts to warm up, then add liquid feed before and during flowering .

Plant size – consider height, size, light and, often omitted, space for air circulation.  Also, often forgotten, the spread of plants.  Shrubs are small trees so plan and prune carefully but not until after  flowering.

The tough but attractive white flowers of Cerastium (Snow in summer) complement the white flowering bracts of Cornus canadensis and provide good ground cover for especially difficult areas.

Garden centres now sell attractive climbers which lift colour and leaf  up above all the other plants and can be used for covering up unsightly objects.

Containers can be used successfully for bulbs, summer flowering bedding plants and annuals. Try some vegetables such as new potatoes  in a deep container if you haven’t done so before, as well as specimen standard shrubs and tender plants.  Containers can be moved around to achieve the best position, but do so before adding water as they become too heavy.  Keep them well watered during hot weather and add water crystals before going away.  They do work well!!

  Every month you will find a wide range of garden science information. The website is now also available as a Secondary Science Resourse on the RHS School Gardening website.

Tony Arnold ACIHort