Monthly Gardening Tips - February 2023

February is effectively the last month to ‘blitz’ your garden before the growing season. Ideally put all new plants in this month so that they establish before summer. If I’m tidying a border I start by hoeing the ground to deal with weeds. Those perennials such as dandelion, Anchusa, ground elder and bindweed will have to be dug out to remove their roots.

Hardy plants are indeed hardy. Cut down most old herbaceous plants by this month - peaonias, michaelmas daisies, phlox, grasses, day lilies etc. and you can then literally rake through and over them to remove the bulk. And compost it. At this stage you can divide large clumps of many herbaceous plants to improve vigour and for more effect. Then lightly fork through borders to de-compact the ground when its frost free, and add bulky manure or your own garden compost if you didn't do it in late autumn.

Support for herbaceous plants can be provided by proprietary metal and plastic supports, bamboo canes or pea sticks in February before growth starts. Ripe Hazel or LIme tree growth are best for staking as they are often fan- shaped. But you can adapt. Below is a pruned branch off my Apricot tree, showing the base sharpened to be better plunged into the ground round a group of Phlox. Another tip is to bend/half-break the sticks inwards about 2 ft. from the ground to provide a ‘cage’ effect through which plants will grow during the summer. You won’t even notice them by early summer. With bamboo canes put 4 or 5 canes round the plant and green twist round each one in concentric circles every 9” or so to contain growth.

If you have nest boxes, clean them out asap. Frustratingly some boxes have very small holes which can only be used by wrens or blue-tits.I often slightly enlarge them for robins! Whilst I’m no bird expert there are so-called nest boxes or ‘pouches’ sold that are utterly useless as they are open to predators such as magpies, jays, squirrels, and even rats. Avoid boxes facing South as they overheat.

Sharpen sticks for plant supportsharpened stick

Here are a few dangling flowers to see in February:

Hazel. Corylus avellanacorylus avellana
Garrya ellipticagarrya elliptica
Alder. Alnus glutinosaalnus glutinosa
And a lovely frosted Euonymus ………do not disturb!euonymus

Richard Ward