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February is the time when winter starts to fade and spring becomes closer and so there are some gardening jobs to be getting on with this weekend. The sunny days in February, particularly towards the end of the month, will bring certain plants to flower. However, February can have some of the coldest days bringing rain, hard frosts and sometimes snow. Therefore, don’t rush into sowing seeds because there still might be some winter weather to come. Speaking to British Garden Centres, Katrina Roche shared three gardening jobs that need to be carried out this month and are perfect to do this weekend.
1. Tidy the garden
Due to the long period of freezing temperatures the UK has faced this winter it can cause plants to go into hibernation for longer and so gardens will be left with fallen leaves that need collecting.
The gardening pro explained that a hand fork (in smaller borders) or leaf rake (in shrub borders), should be used to remove excess fallen leaves.
However, she noted that gardeners should leave behind enough leaves to warm the soil and provide a habitat for over-wintering invertebrates.
Katrina highlighted that there are some plants that need to be trimmed back right now. Even in February, on mild days, gardeners can make a start in the garden and cut back perennials.
In fact, it’s an ideal time because the garden is waking up, and as the new growth comes through it can be hard to cut back all the old growth, without damaging the new.
The gardening expert said: “Leaves droop, stems subside and this is the time to trim back to ground-level modern cottage garden favourites such as whirling butterflies, salvia amistad and verbena bonariensis.
“Some plants repay remaining untrimmed for as long as possible so as to admire their architectural seed heads when it’s frosty, for example, globe thistles and sea holly.”
According to Katrina this is the “perfect time” to trim back deciduous autumn-flowering shrubs. Examples of plants to prune include caryopteris and ceratostigma willmottianum, both centrepieces of the autumn mixed border.
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To prune them the expert said: “I usually use a pair of hedge shears to remove the spent flowers and round off the shrubs into neat mounds.”
She added that slow-growing acers need little pruning and some of the vigorous forms can start to look untidy when one branch shoots out in the wrong direction.
Katrina warned: “Be sure to tackle this as early as possible in the new year, or you’ll find the sap flows from the cut like water from a tap. The same applies to grape vines whose stems can bleed sap if pruned too late in the season.”
The gardening pro explained that while she had started pruning her climbing roses in November, now is the best time for gardeners to carry out the task.
She said: “I started to prune climbing roses in November but always find it easier to do so now their leaves have dropped and I can see clearly how to train the stems onto their supports (horizontal wires or trellis) so as to maximise blooms next summer.”
When it comes to rambling roses, Katrina advised gardeners to tie in stray branches to the support to tidy the rose without sacrificing the fruits.
She added that “now is the time” to trim back to an outward-facing bud and remove dead or crossing branches. The idea is to improve ventilation by thinning out the centre of the shrub, achieving a form resembling a goblet.
If the rose was affected by a black spot last season, pick up and dispose of all fallen leaves to prevent spring rain from splashing the spores of the fungus which causes this unsightly condition onto this year’s young leaves.
Mulching means adding a thick layer of material over the soil and around plants. Katrina said that it’s important to get this job done before signs of new growth start emerging in spring. This way gardeners reduce the risk of treading on precious bulbs.
However, if some bulbs are already showing their heads above the soil, just step carefully around them and tuck the mulch around their bases.
The expert said: “The benefits of mulching far outweigh the disadvantages because it helps warm the soil, protect tender plants, improve the texture of the soil thanks to the action of invertebrates such as worms and beetles, and generally improve the appearance of the border. There’s nothing like a generous layer (ideally 5cm) of well-rotted manure or garden compost to set off a collection of hellebores.”
Katrina said that she favours well-rotted farmyard manure, but also uses composted bark fines and leaf mould made from leaves gathered a couple of autumns earlier.
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