River Wissey Lovell Fuller

February Gardening

February 2016

February Gardening. An exceptionally mild start to winter has caused our garden plants to do some rather strange things. For instance in my own garden, a lovely dark pink Oriental Hellebore is in full flower, now there is nothing odd about that, however nearby in full flower is a lovely blue Campanula that normally flowers in May, resulting in a lovely colour combination that I doubt I’ll ever see again! On a recent trip I witnessed fields full of daffodils in flower, in December. The good news is that now the weather is returning to normal (whatever that is) apart from bulbs which only flower once a year, our gardens will return to normal. Guy Barter, chief horticultural officer at the Royal Horticultural Society agrees “Plants should return to expected behavior when the weather returns to ‘normal’ so there is not likely to be any knock-on effect. It is after all not dissimilar to the climate in mild regions such as Cornwall, Brittany and the Channel Islands” There are however some plants that require a sufficient period of cold to develop fruit and flowers. This is known as Vernalisation. Blackcurrants are a good example if there is not enough cold weather as their flowering can be delayed and sporadic and the crop will be less as a result. Also affected are some spring flowering perennials such as Aquilegia and Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris). Most plants however are more influenced by day length. Another benefit of a cold snap is the cleansing effect of frosts, without these frosts there is a risk of more pests and diseases later in the year. If you’re planning on growing onions, shallots or garlic this season early February is the ideal time to start preparing the ground. Never plant onions in freshly manured soil as it is far too high in nitrogen, instead use well rotted garden compost for improving the soil structure and dig bonemeal into the soil as this is high in phosphorus and calcium which stimulates bulb formation and root growth giving onions a rapid start. Onions and Shallots are an easy to grow, low maintenance crop making them ideal for beginner gardeners. You can grow them from either seed or from onion sets (small bulbs). Growing from seed is cheaper however this requires more time and effort and takes up valuable greenhouse space. Instead opt for sets which can be planted directly into the veg plot. Or, for an earlier crop, why not try planting sets in modules (also called cell inserts) of seed compost, and place in a frost-free greenhouse or coldframe. Once the modules are full of roots, they will be ready to plant in the ground from mid-march onwards. Here are some other gardening tasks for February: 1. Prepare vegetable seed beds and sow some vegetables under cover. 2. Chit potato tubers 3. Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches using horticultural fleece. 4. Prune blackcurrants, gooseberries and redcurrant bushes to maintain a productive framework. 5. Prune winter flowering shrubs that have finished flowering, such as winter Jasmine. 6. Cut back deciduous grasses, taking care not to damage emerging shoots. 7. Refresh planters and hanging baskets by replanting them with primroses. Whatever February brings, I hope you are able to enjoy some time in your garden. Rachel Sobiechowski BSc (Hons) P&R Garden Supplies, Fengate Drove, Brandon 01842 814800 www.p-rgardensupplies.co.uk

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