Spring gardening tips

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Garry Winwood of Stone Cross Garden Centre with tips on how to bring colour to your garden.

February is a month of change with the winter blooms of Viburnum, Mahonia and Sarcococca still producing much needed colour for this time of the year.

Violet and yellow multicolor Pansies outdoor in nature.

Violet and yellow multicolor Pansies outdoor in nature.

As the month progresses you will start to see the early signs of spring in the garden. Bulbs are emerging from the ground, seed potatoes are beginning to chit and the temperature and hours of daylight are rising. Now is the time to plan your spring garden, bring in colour and look forward to the new season.

If you haven’t already, this is also the

month to start planning your ‘grow your own’ garden.

I promise you once you have tasted your own produce you will soon start growing more.

TOP JOBS IN THE GARDEN THIS MONTH

- Plant hanging basket plug plants

- Chit potato tubers

- Prune winter flowering shrubs where the blooms have faded

- Cut back deciduous grasses

- Mulch soil with blended farmyard manure

PLANT OF THE MONTH

Lonicera fragrantissima – Winter Honeysuckle

This is the perfect plant for this month.

It has tremendously fragrant creamy-white flowers from January to March. The flowers are borne on almost leafless branches and are often followed by red berries. The leaves are a rich green with a flush of purple. It is a semi-evergreen shrub and is suitable for pots or in borders close to pathways where its aroma can be fully appreciated.

IN THE FLOWER GARDEN

February is a good month to tidy and prepare the garden for the spring – a big difference can be made this month. Pick a good sunny day and make a difference– your be amazed at the results.

Mulch your soil with blended farmyard manure – this will improve the goodness in the soil, suppress weeds, help to protect plant roots and retain moisture for the warmer days to come.

Mulch around alpine plants with grit to prevent stem rot. It will also showcase the plants better giving a beautiful display.

Prune faded winter flowers on shrubs. This will prolong their flowering period as energy can be diverted to new flower buds.

Plant dahlia tubers and lily bulbs in tubs in a greenhouse. This will give them a head start for the summer. Sow hardy seeds in greenhouses or windowsills such as dianthus, geum, salvia and sweet peas.

Divide clumps of snowdrops once they have finished flowering and prune hardy evergreen hedges.

Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over winter such as miscanthus. Take root cuttings from verbascum and phlox.

Wisteria can be pruned but be careful to avoid removing the flower buds. Side shoots should be reduced to three buds.

The deadheading of pansies will prolong their flower displays.

You can still plant bare-root hedging plants so long as you soil is not saturated or frozen.

It is a good month for planting roses. By planting with multi-purpose compose, rose food and mycorrhizal fungi the roses will establish more quickly ready to bloom throughout the summer.

Prune group-three clematis. These are the varieties that flower in late summer and autumn.

You should prune back to a pair of strong buds. It is also advisable to feed and mulch the clematis at this time too.

Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs such as Cornus, Forsythia, Ribes and Escallonia.

GROW YOUR OWN

February means you need to start to plan and buy your seeds. Let the growing begin!

Buy seeds to sow in propagators or once the weather temperature improves.

Chit potatoes. This will give them a head start when you plant them out in the garden in March or April.

Sow seeds undercover or in propagators such as broad beans, purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, cucumber and onions.

Cover vegetable growing areas with black polythene to supress weeds and warm the soil prior to planting

HOUSEPLANT CARE

We don’t always take care of our houseplants, they are normally at the bottom of the list, but this month take the time to give them a feed and a top dress:

Planting a range of small houseplants together in a container will allow them to establish. This can then be given as a Mother’s Day gift.

Top dress the pots holding citrus plants with multi-purpose compost. This will help to keep them healthy and producing fruit.

LAWN CARE

After the last few cold and wet months, all lawns will not be looking their best and we often get asked about laying new turf.

You can prepare soil by raking it flat and levelling with top soil prior to laying new turf.

Remember though you should not lay turf if the soil is saturated or frozen.

Work from planks of wood so as not to compact soil.

A frequently asked question in the garden centre...

Q. What can be done to make areas of a garden with soggy soil look good?

A. This is a problem encountered by many gardeners, particularly at this time of the year.

Leaves on plants turn yellow, the plants roots become waterlogged and develop a sour odour, shoots die back and new growth is sporadic or dies back often as quickly as it came.

The first solution is to improve the soil. This will in time make the area as easy to garden as any other area soil type. It can be achieved by carrying out any of the following steps:

Avoid compacting soil by walking on it. This compounds the problem.

Digging the soil with a fork will loosen and aerate the soil allowing further rainfall to drain more easily.

On heavy sticky soils coarse grit or homemade composted green waste can be dug into the soil to improve drainage.

Although not a quick fix growing a tree such as a thirsty willow (Salix) will help to absorb some of the soil’s moisture and form a canopy preventing some of the rainfall from reaching the ground.

The rain also washes many of the soil’s nutrients from the ground. Applying a twice yearly feed of a balanced fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone will aid the growth of plants in this type of soil.

While improving the soil is beneficial, it is time consuming and sometimes costly too.

In addition, if environmental or location factors are not going to change you will encounter similar sticky sodden soil conditions again. This is particularly likely to be the case if, for example, the soggy soil is at the bottom of a steep bank as rainfall will still run down to the area.

In this case you may wish to take the easier option and simply choose to work with the soil conditions you have and grow plants that like these specific conditions.

For example cornus (Dogwood) loves damp soils and various varieties produce a profusion of colourful stems that glow in the winter light. As examples there are the red stemmed Sibirica the yellow stemmed Flaviramea and the beautiful orangey-red stemmed Midwinter Fire. Other plants that love wet soils include leycesteria, lobelia Queen Victoria, physocarpus, astilbe, equisetum, hosta, sambucus, sorbaria, symphoricarpus and bamboo Phyllostachys.

Stone Cross Nurseries, Dittons

Road, Stone Cross, Pevensey.

www.stone-cross-nurseries.co.uk

This was first featured in the February etc Magazine, pick up your copy now.