Winter jobs

Seasonal Gardening advice from horticulturist Kim Wilde and Wyevale Garden Centres.

February is a busy and exciting time for me in my garden. As the bulbs I planted in the autumn start to emerge from the ground and deciduous trees, shrubs and perennials slowly awaken from their winter sleep, I find that there is a lot for me to do to prepare and tidy in my garden, before the work load picks up with the onset of spring.

With a little more sunshine and lighter days, I am easily motivated to put on my work clothes, dig out the tools from the shed and to get started on another season of inspiring gardening. One of the first jobs to do now is to tidy up the flower borders. The top growth of many perennials and ferns will have been knocked back by the cold winter weather and this should be cut away at the base to allow the new seasons growth to emerge freely.

This also helps to remove any over-wintering pests and diseases on the foliage and prevents slugs and snails from surviving in the dead plant material. This material should be cut up into small pieces and added to your compost heap.

Once you have cleared away the old debris, it is sometimes a good idea to put down a mulch of organic matter such as well rotted farmyard manure, leaf mould or a product such as J. Arthur Bowers peat free ‘Mulch and Mix’. This will help to prevent weeds growing and to add nutrients to the soil, ready to feed your plants as they start into growth.

If you need to move any deciduous plants that have been growing in the wrong place, this can be done now. Note however, that this should be done only in mild spells and when the ground is frost-free. When moving plants always ensure that the roots are disturbed as little as possible.

If your tubs and patio containers are looking a little sorry for themselves after braving the worst of the winter weather, then these can be revitalised by adding some colourful spring bedding plants such as primroses, bellis or potted bulbs, which are readily available at garden centres now. A colourful-planted container always cheers me up while I work in my garden in February.

Remember you should now prune any late summer and autumn flowering Clematis before the end of February, to ensure flowering this year. Cut back the growth to a pair of healthy buds, usually 30-60 cm above ground level. Also, if you have a Wisteria you should shorten back side-shoots to two or three buds from the base of the previous year’s growth.

Large apple and pear trees can be pruned now to remove congested and crossing branches and you should also take the opportunity to apply a sprinkling of Sulphate of Potash around the roots to feed the plant.

In your greenhouse the growing season is about to start, so you should ensure that you give your greenhouse a spring-clean before you start any propagation. Thoroughly wash the glass, staging and interior of your greenhouse and ensure that your seed trays and pots are washed before use. Replace any broken glass that may have been damaged in the winter.