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Gardening In February

1st of February 2011

After the coldest December for a century and weeks of sub-zero temperatures the gardens are looking a bit sad. Some plants have suffered and there is a lot of catching up to do.

Fruit and vegetables
Pruning of apple and pear trees (not plums) should be done as soon as possible, removing any diseased and crowded branches. Spray trees with a winter wash. Before the middle of February spray peach trees with Dithane or a copper fungicide to protect from peach leaf curl. Finish digging the vegetable garden and cover seed beds with polythene to help the ground warm up. Weather permitting, towards the end of the month we can start to sow early peas, carrots, parsnips, and broad beans and to plant shallots, onion sets and Jerusalem artichokes. It is time to purchase seed potatoes so that they can be chitted or sprouted in a dry, frost free place ready for planting out in the spring. Choose early varieties if you want new potatoes and maincrop varieties for baking and mashing.

The greenhouse
It is time to sow cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines plus celery, onions and some brassicas. Herbs such as mint and sage, tarragon, parsley and basil can be sown too. Start sowing soon annuals such as alyssum, ageratum, antirrhinums, cosmea, dahlia, dianthus, gazania, geraniums, gerbera, marigolds, mesembryanthemum, nemesia, nicotiana, petunias, salvias, stocks and verbena and perennials such as delphiniums and hollyhocks. To save time, plug-plants and starter plants will be on sale this month and these will need to be potted as soon as possible.

Flowers and shrubs
If the ground is not frozen this is a good time to plant trees, shrubs, roses and climbers. Late flowering clematis will need to be cut back hard this month and some shrubs will need to be pruned. Trim hedges before the birds start to nest. Perennials can be lifted and divided and new plants can start to be planted now. Some conifers suffered in December due to the weight of the snow and might need to be trimmed and branches tied back. Winter flowering heathers should be trimmed as soon as they have flowered. Summer flowering bulbs and corms, such as begonias and gladioli are now on sale and tubers of cannas and dahlias. These should be planted up soon in a peaty compost and placed in a frost free place.

Garden events
The RHS London Plant and Design Show is on 15 and 16 February and the Orchid Show is on 19 and 20 March. (020 7649 1885, www.rhs.org.uk/flowershows). Get your tickets a.s.a.p for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 24-28 May (0844 338 7526, www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea). From 1-28 February at the RHS Gardens, Wisley, there are exotic butterflies amongst the tropical plants.
(www.rhs.org.uk/wisley). Terry Simmonds

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