February – What to Do?

by Handy Mag
Published: Last Updated on

by Tricia Harris, Helmsley Walled Garden. www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk

February is one of those months when you really want to be getting on but the weather is against you. Back in the dim distant past we called it February fill-dyke and that weather pattern is showing no signs of changing.

Indeed I’m not sure I can remember a winter as wet as this when I have barely been able to get on the soil at all and only managed to get my bulbs in by sliding around in a sea of mud. Desperately trying to dig holes between showers whilst practically doing the splits as first one foot then the other slides from underneath me is never my best look.

Fortunately there are indoor jobs like seed sowing and overhauling pot plants that can be done without getting soaked. I gave my pots a tidy the other day and I must say they look the happier for it. I will give them new compost at the end of the month so they can grow away with fresh nutrients and longer days.

If you are a vegetable grower you’ll know that you can get salad leaves and some herbs off this month alongside other vegetables such as courgettes, pumpkins, tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumbers and peas to name but a few.

On the flower side sweet peas, antirrhinums, chrysanthemums and geraniums are just some of the seeds you can get going under glass with a little bottom heat (something we can all appreciate in winter).

One of my favourite jobs is chopping back deciduous grasses and combing out the dead grass from evergreens (bit like a trip to the hairdresser). Giving a bit of a trim to hardy evergreen shrubs is another.

Not that I’m advocating tidy gardens in winter, far from it. Much as those dead stems of Iris sibirica annoy me, I know they are the perfect place for ladybirds and other insects to snooze in over winter and as I want them out and chewing aphids from the get-go in springtime it seems only right to give them board and lodgings now.

A tidy garden in winter leaves nowhere for a healthy collection of helpful bugs and other invertebrates to live. I feel a bit sad when I go past gardens where there isn’t a leaf out of place and everything is pruned back within an inch of its life. It seems so sterile and against nature. There is a lot happening under that layer of leaves, of which the biggest might be a hibernating hedgehog.

I got the shock of my life clearing the Hot Border one year when the leaf pile I was clearing suddenly started to move and grumble. I all but leapt out of my skin, hurriedly putting them back and apologising. The pile must have accepted my apology as it subsided and continued to snooze.

I will tidy the garden but it won’t be till next month. As long as I can see the snowdrops and winter aconites, I’ll be happy.

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