Greenfingers - February 2016

On 1st February, we shall have 9hr 11min of sunshine, clouds permitting, and by the 29th, we’ll be able to enjoy 10hr 54min as the sun climbs in the sky and draws the greenery into springtime.

It’s been a very mild winter so far, though the forecast is for lower temperatures as I write this. It’s also been wet, and these conditions combined to make it necessary to trim the grass. And during a 2hr dry window on the morning of 20th December, I succeeded, even cleaning the mower of damp and sticky grass cuttings on completion, just before another downpour. So when asked ‘when was the last time I did something for the first time’, cutting the grass in mid-December was novel, (but not quite skydiving). 

HyacynthThere are a few outdoor gardening activities which could be done this month, such as dividing snowdrops, which are best planted ‘in the green’; prune wisteria, roses,winter-flowering shrubs after flowering; plant bare rooted shrubs; and prepare vegetable seed beds and sow some early vegetables under cover.

Indoor jobs include chitting potato tubers, top dressing or re-potting indoor citrus trees, water pot plants sparingly until they come into active growth, and move any indoor flowering bulbs that have finished to a sheltered spot outside until they are planted in an appropriate bed.

It’s worth generating an overall plan for the coming gardening year, selecting what to grow, where and how many plants. For the repeat salad crops, packets of seed would do the trick, but if just a few specific vegetables and bedding plants or perennials are wanted, plug plants may be an alternative to growing from seed. These become available this month, and would need to be grown on in a frostproof greenhouse or cool windowsill. They offer a useful compromise between buying larger and more expensive plants in April, and the more labour intensive alternative of growing from seed, which tends to lead to an excess of seedlings, though these can always be given away.

The plan is also useful in that it helps to restrain the desire to buy plants randomly as we review the catalogue or visit the garden centre, and it makes for a pleasant evening, anticipating hot sunny days with colourful flowers, tasty crops and the buzz of insects.

Pete Smith