February was known as ‘Filldyke’ by our ancestors. It is however one of the least wet months of winter. What it does suffer from however are a succession of dry, chilling east winds blowing from the cold wastes of Scandinavia, bringing heavy frosts and snow. It also has a nasty habit towards its end, of lulling you into a false sense of security with bright, sunny, spring-like days that are almost warm, and then following them up with cripplingly deep frosts that can kill even some of the hardier plants, stone dead.
Any work needing to be done in the garden at this time of year therefore, will have to be done with a careful eye on the weather. You won’t be able to cultivate if the soil is waterlogged or frozen. You need to avoid walking on lawns when they are frosted, and you will certainly have to be careful about the ventilation of greenhouses and cold frames
Having said all that, there is still plenty that can be done between showers and frosts. Digging or trenching not completed last back-end can be finished now. Break up the topsoil with a fork but leave the clods to nature. Incorporate as much organic material as you can find, as you get the opportunity, whatever type of soil you possess. If you use manure make sure it is well rotted, otherwise fertility will be slowed down.
This is also the month to apply lime but don’t do so within a month of laying down organic manure. And don’t lime anywhere near where you intend to grow rhododendrons, azaleas and other lime-hating plants.
This is the month to really set your vegetable plot into action. You can make a sowing of broad beans in a sheltered spot in the open. You can make the first sowing of sprouts under glass. Globe varieties of beet should go into a hot bed, and cabbage will be ready for use this summer if it is started off in a box in a cold frame. Sow cauliflower on a hot bed for summer use, get your onions in for early supplies, and plant tomato seed in heat for an early crop.
If the weather isn’t too bad you could advantageously plant a row or two of peas in a sheltered border, though if the weather is bad it might be better to wait until March. The same goes for spinach. Now is the time to put seed potatoes to sprout in boxes.
It is perhaps a touch early to be doing much to the flower beds. However, you can look forward to a good showing of snowdrops and, as soon as the flowers have dropped, you can divide the clumps and replant elsewhere. Do replant immediately though, because these tiny bulbs are very prone to dehydration once they are exposed to the air.
If you have planted new fruit bushes or trees, you must persuade yourself not to let them fruit in this first year. It’s hard to do but rewarding ultimately. Now therefore, is the time to take appropriate action by pruning. Cut gooseberries, black, red and white currant bushes especially hard, and cut back raspberries to around six inches from ground level.
If the weather allows, you should aerate your lawn now. It’s worth investing in a turf-aerating tool for the purpose because it does a great deal toward ensuring you have a top grade lawn. There are several types on sale ranging from a small, fork-type tool with simple prongs, to a large motor-driven machine with a selection of spiking, slitting and hollow tubular tines for doing a variety of lawn aerating and draining operations. The benefits of such tools are always two-fold because as well as letting air into the turf, they also open the way in for any top dressings and fertilizers you apply.
Happy Gardening !