Enjoy a little outdoor pottering

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Gardener Pete Harcom says that February is far from free of jobs to do, so make the most of a dry day and get outside to be ahead for the year

It won’t be long before the spring bulbs show their faces (image shutterstock)

Spring is just around the corner … the crocuses will be out soon, honestly! February is a good time to look back and evaluate what went well last year and plan for this spring and summer, while getting on with some useful jobs:

Check recently-planted trees and shrubs, as these may have been loosened by wind
There is still time to plant bare-rooted plants – February is regarded by some as the best time to do this, as the soil will soon be starting to warm up and this will give the plants a good start when the sap starts to rise.
Clean up and wash all pots in the greenhouse – this will help keep pests under control.
How about installing a water butt now, ready for the summer (it’s too late once it stops raining!)? Rainwater is particularly useful for watering acid-loving, ericaceous plants.
Find out what type of soil you have. Invest in a soil testing kit to help you choose the right plants for your garden.
Stock up on some organic fertilisers – there are many different types, each with different characteristics. Some of the more common examples are your own garden compost, well-rotted cow, horse and/or poultry manure, blood, fish and bone meal. Seaweed fertiliser is also worth looking for, as it is one of the most beneficial fertilisers and is also good for soil conditioning.
All potted plants will benefit from a top dressing with some of that organic fertiliser.
Pruning
Prune all your winter-blooming shrubs such as mahonia, winter jasmine and heathers once they’ve finished flowering. Be careful not to cut back into old wood.
Check your wisteria and cut side shoots to three buds from the base to encourage flowers in the spring.
Prune Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) and Elder hard back to the base to keep these vigorous shrubs to a reasonable size.
Before the birds start nesting, trim back any ivy and deciduous hedges, Virginia creeper and other climbers.
Prune summer-flowering clematis towards the end of the month, before active growth begins, cutting stems back to healthy buds about 30cm from the base.
Cut back old stems of herbaceous perennials.
If you have a cold greenhouse you can start potted Fuchsias back into growth. Prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot. For the next few months, if you pinch out the lead bud on every shoot, you will have lots more flowers in the summer.

Feed the birds
February can be a particularly hard time for birds. Ensure your bird feeders are kept clean and regularly stocked. Maybe put up some nest boxes for garden birds to pick themselves a home.

Sponsored by Thorngrove Garden Centre

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