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February In Your Garden

1st of February 2010

A colder than usual winter this year has presented gardeners with quite a few problems. It is hoped, however, that the severe frosts will have at least rid us of most of those perennial pests which have persisted for some years and soil structure should have improved as well. Now is the time to prune apple and pear trees, and peach trees must be sprayed this month with Dithane or Copper Fungicide to prevent Peach Leaf Curl. Wisterias should be cut back now and late-flowering clematis (such as C. Jackmanii) are usually pruned hard as soon as possible . The weight of the snow on trees and shrubs will possibly have done some damage and they will need trimming. Evergreens growing outside in pots may have dried out due to the cold winds and may need to be watered. Hopefully, the digging will have been done before the frosty weather arrived; if not, do get on with it when the weather permits. Seed potatoes should be purchased as soon as possible so that they can be chitted or sprouted in a nice, light, frost-free place. Arran Pilot, Home Guard, Pentland Javelin and Sutton’s Foremost are the best varieties to grow for early new potatoes; and Desiree, Majestic, Estima and Maris Piper can be used for baking or boiling. The tubers should be planted from March onwards. A vast selection of seeds can be found in the garden centres and it’s the right time to get seed sowing in the warm greenhouse. Antirrhinums, begonias, carnations, geraniums, lobelia, salvia and sweet peas should go in as soon as possible. Perennials, such as delphiniums and hollyhocks, can be sown under glass now. Many gardeners prefer to skip sowing and to purchase plug plants, or even starter plants, and these will be on sale in a week or so. Tomatoes, cucumbers and some brassicas should be sown under glass and it’s a good time to sow basil, parsley and other herbs. Outside in the vegetable garden, if the weather permits, onion sets and shallots can be planted and broad beans can be sown towards the end of the month. Prepare the ground ready for the main vegetable sowings which are usually carried out during March, covering the soil with polythene sheeting to help warm it up. Leave the lawn this month but do get the lawn mower serviced so that it is ready when the grass starts to grow again. Shrubs, roses, climbers and herbaceous perennials can be planted and soft fruit can go in now. The Royal Horticultural Society have their London Plant and Design Show on February 16/17, and their Orchid Show on March 20/ 21 (tel 0845 612 1253). At their Wisley Gardens until the end of this month there is a stunning display of butterflies to see in the great new greenhouse amongst the tropical plants there.
Terry Simmonds

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