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Garden Maintenance: FEBRUARY

Remember, your gardener is not likely to be so busy until Spring and might be available for larger garden projects like paving, fence building, pond digging and installing water butts.

Summer came early in 2011 and many plants suffered from the dry weather. In an average summer gardeners could harvest nearly 640 litres of rainwater from a 7ft by 5ft shed. Depending on the weather, this could keep up to 50 tomato plants happy for three months! The sooner you get a water butt installed, the more you can save.

Top gardening jobs for February

1. Prune shrubs that have finished flowering and finish pruning deciduous trees.
2. Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate deciduous hedges
3. Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter.
4. Put a top dressing around plants after pruning, planting etc such as bark or gravel around alpines. This helps to improve the soil, suppress weeds, insulate roots and retain moisture during the summer.
5. Apply a general fertiliser to all plants. Apply the fertiliser where the roots are - roughly a similar area to the spread of the branches.
6. Regularly check stored fruit and veg removing any rotting or mouldy specimens.
7. Regularly deadhead plants and sweep up fallen debris, to prevent disease spreading.
8. Prune climbers.

Top Tip: Reduce the need for weeding by stopping them from growing in the first place!
- Benefits of garden mulch

Lawn Care

- Lay turf and repair the lawn if it is not too wet or frosty but avoid compacting the soil.
- Cutting the lawn edges can really improve the look of your garden and save you work later on.
- If you need to mow the lawn set the cutting height to its maximum.
- Snow mould (Fusarium patch) can be a problem in wet weather especially on overfed lawns that have been left to grow too long.

Did you know?
Mole activity increases in February as it is the mating season and they are building nests.

Trees, shrubs and climbers

- Its okay to move established hedges, shrubs, trees and climbers and plant new specimens.
- Continue to plant roses but remember not to plant them where roses have previously been planted to avoid replant disease.
- This is your last chance to take hardwood cuttings of ornamental shrubs such as Salix, Forsythia, Ribes, Elaeagnus, Rosa, Weigela, Cornus, Chaenomeles and Escallonia.
- Summer-flowering deciduous shrubs can be pruned between February and March to keep them tidy such as Buddleja davidii, Hydrangea paniculata,Ceratostigma, Lavatera, Leycesteria, hardy fuchsias, Perovskia and deciduous Ceanothus. Some of these can be cut back very hard (stooled).
- Delay pruning spring-flowering shrubs until immediately after flowering or you might lose this years display.
- Prune out shoots on hardy evergreens that should be two colours but are growing with only one colour; otherwise the whole plant could revert to one colour.
- Cut back Ornamental vines, ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy now.
- Prune Wisteria by cutting back the sideshoots by two or three buds. Avoid cutting off flower buds.
- Prune Campsis stems by cutting back lateral branches to within two or three buds of the main branch.
- Late summer and autumn flowering Clematis can be cut back to the lowest pair of strong buds.
- Winter-flowering heathers can be trimmed as the flowers fade, keeping them bushy and colourful.
- Don't forget it's last chance month for pruning apples and pears. Next month the sap will start moving. It's also time to cut autumn fruiting raspberries and blackcurrants down to the ground to stimulate the new canes.

Want to add a tree to your garden?
- Trees for small gardens
- Trees native to the UK

Flowers

- Cut back ornamental grasses and any other perennials that were left for some winter interest.
- Divide clumps of herbaceous perennials that have either become too large, that you want to propagate, are flowering poorly or have lost their shape.
- Plant Lily bulbs in pots for flowers in the summer.
- Deadhead winter pansies and other winter bedding to prolong the display.
- Top up pots and tubs with fresh compost.
- Check that stored Dahlia and Canna tubers are not too dry or wet.

Top Tip: Check whether pots and other containers need watering - even at this time of year, they can dry out.

Greenhouse and houseplants

- Deadhead Amaryllis but leave the flower stalks to die down naturally.
- If you notice the leaves on potted Cyclamen turn yellow you may be overwatering them.
- Conservatory climbers can be pruned towards the end of the month.
- Prune Plumbago, passion flower and jasmine to two or three buds from the main framework.

Ponds

- Not much to do with ponds; stop them freezing over and keep an eye on the water level.
- If you don't have a pond why not have a pond made for you ready for the summer?

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