Spring is in sight – well it’s seven weeks away from the beginning of the month – this year spring starts on the 21st March. And it was only a couple of weeks ago we woke up in Frome to our first dusting of snow……….
At the beginning of the month and with the sun setting at just after 5pm we should be enjoying 9 hours and 14 minutes of daylight. Compare that to sunrise an hour earlier and sunset almost an hour later at the end of the month and it’s little wonder that we’re seeing more and more bulbs coming through. We’ve got a few indoor jobs that we need to think about this month and also as our outside space starts to spring into life, a few jobs that will also get us outdoors.
These are our Top Ten jobs for the coming month:
Prepare your vegetable beds ready for an early sowing and sow some vegetables under cover. We started to prepare some of our beds at the allotment the other day by weeding them, lightly raking them and then covering them in some fleece to encourage the soil to start to warm up. We’ve also got our broad beans and some calabrese seeds in pots in our own seed compost – hopefully they’ll be ready to be hardened off where necessary and transplanted in a month or so.
Chit potato tubers. Yes, its time to get your seed potatoes in egg boxes or seed trays with their eyes upwards and to encourage them to get growing. We started ours off on the kitchen table the other day and the eyes are starting to sprout. Six weeks or so and they’ll be ready to be planted out!
Protect the blossom on your apricots, nectarines and peaches. We mentioned this last month and covered a peach tree that we’re training against a fence so as to protect it from any cold winds that might have been heading our way. The reason that’s important is if we lose the blossom due to the weather then we can kiss goodbye to any crop this year.
Think about netting your fruit and vegetables. We always try – and don’t quite make it – to net our gooseberries and currants and to make some better protection for our brassicas. This year we’ve bought – at great expense – a roll of chicken wire and we’re hoping to find the time soon to fix that to the wooden frame we have around that soft fruit. We also have some lengths of plastic water pipe that we’re aiming to fix over the brassica bed and then drape net over – such to keep the pigeons at bay. This year………
Prune your winter flowering shrubs. Those deciduous shrubs that flower in late winter - like Kerria, Forsythia. Mock Orange (Philadelphus) and Weigela will benefit from a good trim to encourage strong, healthy shoots. Annual pruning also prolongs the life of these early flowering shrubs. They usually flower on the previous year’s growth and pruning immediately after flowering gives them as much time as possible to develop fresh growth for new flowers in the following year. We'll be doing ours shortly!
Get your garlic in! We planted ours the other week and you can see how we did it here: From Plot to Plate - Week 1 - what's in the plot, what's on the table? (trugandlettuce.co.uk) And as you'll see having planted the garlic we then had snow! But that's ok as garlic needs a couple of weeks of cold weather to encourage the bulbs that we're looking forward to sampling later in the year to be as big as possible. They'll be fine!
Cut your grass........ Not your lawn (!) but those ornamental grasses that look good all winter will now start to look untidy and will benefit from a prune. Using your secateurs, cut them back to ground level but make sure you don't damage any new, green growth that's sprouting at the base. Give them a feed and apply some mulch and leave them to it.
Prune your wisteria. It's dormant at the moment so now is a good time to give this rampant climber a prune. If you don't then all those long shoots will turn into a tangled mess and produce few flowers later in the year. Pruning the plant in winter and again in summer will encourage the development of short spurs that will carry the flowers in the spring. Make sure you tie in new growth to extend the main framework over its support and then cut the remaining long stems back hard. And then if you want to restrict further growth and encourage even more flowers, prune again in July.
Divide and replant your bulbs. Snowdrops and acconites will be starting to dieback now so that means it's time to gently lift them, gently tease them apart and then replant them. This is one of the ways in which bulbs are propagated - new, "baby" bulbs are produced alongside the parent that need to given space of their own to grow. In addition to division and replanting don't forget what we spoke about last month - planting "in the green". We're planning to plant up our indoor hyacinths that are now past their best over the next day or so.
Prune summer-flowering clematis towards the end of the month. Clematis - like wisteria - can quickly turn from a wonderful, flowering climber into a tangled mess if left unpruned.
The aim now is to remove dead or weak stems before new growth starts. Work back along each of the main stems from the top down until you reach a pair of healthy buds, and then prune just above them. Remove all the spindly or damaged growth above but also try and avoid heavy pruning - if you do that then you might have to sacrifice flowers later in the year.
There are a number of different pruning groups that define how and when clematis needs to be pruned, and this is why they're sometimes left as we forget which group our belongs to - so we decide to do nothing! If you're uncertain about which type you've got then go with this:
If yours flower before early summer (June) then do not prune it but,
If yours flowers from late June onwards, prune it now!
That's it for February. Don't forget that you can listen to us chat all things gardening on FromeFM. We're on every 4 weeks with our next show due on Sunday 7th February at 1pm!