Peter’s Gardening Tips for February

What a difference a year makes!!

Excuse me whilst I recap for those who follow my writing on Silversurfers. A year ago this month I walked across a York-stone patio with my wheelbarrow, put it down, turned round and did the splits, slipped and fell breaking my right leg, resulting in double spiral fracture of my tibia and broken fibula, eight screws and a plate. Then followed the worst nine months I can remember, no work, frustration, pain, to name a few. I was very fortunate to have some amazing care and doctors looking after me at the Royal Surrey County Hospital and of course my family and close friends, who I owe a massive thanks to. Also, I was supported closely by Perennial, the Horticultural charity, who still continue with their advice and care, a big thank you to them.

Wildlife, birds, plants, books helped return me back to sanity.  I was also able to get my website built which is something I should have done years ago, so now I am back, fighting fit and ready for selling myself, consulting, advising and writing, pruning roses, fruit trees, wisteria etc.

So back to all things gardening and wildlife

The cold weather is holding back a lot of plants; Snowdrops here in Surrey still haven’t peaked so when you have a chance go and enjoy them at your nearest snowdrop garden. The picture above is one I took at RHS Wisley Gardens.

If your nearby pop in to look at the Butterflies in the greenhouse, 3pm onwards is a good time, even better if the sun is out. Here are some pictures. Butterflies only there until 8th March 2015.


Butterflies at RHS Wisley

Butterflies at RHS Wisley

Butterflies at RHS Wisley

Jobs to do

Now is a great time to prune your roses.  The main aim with climbing and rambling Roses is to remove old gnarled stems which are non productive, or old flowered stems. Keep all long green stems and tie these in. These stems will flower.  Do not cut them off thinking these are suckers!

Any vegetable areas should be weeded and roughly dug over with an addition of compost/mulch on the surface. Let the worms pull it down when it warms up. Frost will break up heavy soil. Top up raised beds with soil/compost/mulch.

Too early to apply fertiliser as the soil temperature is too cold.

If you want good potatoes, climbing beans or sweet peas and the ground isn’t sodden, then prepare trenches where your crops are to be grown.

Check bamboo canes or Hazel poles that they are up to the job of supporting your coming seasons crop. If you have access to Hazel – cut for pea sticks and new bean poles.

Clear out old Brussel sprout plants, cabbages etc.

Try to start the season free of weeds, it makes for less weeding later on!

Order your veg seeds for the coming season or pop to your local garden centre.

Dead wooding:

Japanese acers have a lot of dead twigs in them- they go white and are very brittle. Run your fingers through the branches gently from the middle of the tree to the tips of the branches like a comb. Larger dead stems use secateurs to cut out. This can also be done with Rhododendrons and Pieris.

Herbaceous Borders:

Cut down old flowered stems. Leave grasses until March. Use a spring tine rake to flick out old dead twigs, stems and leaves. Mulch and try not to tread on new bulbs and shoots pushing up!


If you are lucky enough to have a heated greenhouse or heated propagator you can start sowing tomatoes, salad crops like spinach, lettuce – Cos or the mixtures, cress, radishes, beetroot can be started even as baby leaves.

Start broad beans off in root trainers or sweet pea tubes. Talking of sweet peas, if you didn’t start them off last autumn now you can sow between now and March. Kings Seeds have a fabulous selection of the quintessential cottage garden flower for cut flowers and a fabulous scent! Any gardener will tell you there is nothing more exciting than seeing your first seedlings germinating, pushing through the soil or popping out of their seed case, truly fantastic.

Please keep in mind that mice and voles love seeds and seedlings as well as emerging slugs or snails! Slugs and snails killed in February will be adults that have hibernated during the winter, so control now to reduce the problem later on. Put cloches over cold or wet soil to warm and dry up, black plastic can also be used. Make sure it is well weighted down to stop flapping around.

Later this month if the weather allows and the soil warms up, sow parsnip, peas, carrots, garlic if not already planted, shallots and onion sets can also go in.

Fruit Trees:

Winter wash before the buds break. Continue to prune apples and pears and ideally by the end of this month. Fruit tree grease needs applying or fruit bands, also check ties and stakes.

Peaches need spraying with copper fungicide to prevent peach leaf curl.

Mulch trees – keep mulch away from the trunk of the tree – remove if piled up against the trunk. If fruit trees are growing in grass, remove a circle or square of turf around the trunk and mulch, this enables less competition for the tree.

Fruit Bushes

Blackcurrants, gooseberries need pruning. I like to cut out old stems on bushes especially opening out the middle of the plant – more air and light, less gooseberry sawfly. Remove very low branches, aim for a ‘Goblet’ shape. If you grow standard gooseberries or currants then you prune differently, please refer to the RHS website.

Talking of fruit, I came across something new to me the other day whilst visiting a wonderful old garden in Sussex. An old fig tree growing against a wall, had been attacked at the base of the tree by wood mice or voles, completely stripping the bark. They had also dug under the tree around its base causing an amazing amount of damage, little blighters.

Raspberries – Autumn fruiting canes need cutting to the ground. I leave a few of the strongest canes tall to give some early fruit – cut off the top fruited part, invariably they are canes that grew late in the season. If you want a superb variety go for ‘Joan J’, I think they are better than ‘Autumn Bliss’? Once cut down, weed mulch with compost/manure, raspberries are hungry plants.

Flower Garden

Lots to think about here – what shall I grow for tubs and containers? Where do I need more colour in the garden? What colours do I/we like? What height colour do I need – front of border, middle or back?

The choice is huge whether to grow from corms, bulbs or tubers. New seasons Lillies, Gladiolis, Dahlias, Nerines, Cannas etc.

Flower corms and seeds

What to choose?

Then there are the seed collections, tickle your fancy, be adventurous and trial something new and completely different, seeds are remarkably good value.

Seed Sowing

Buy good quality seed compost. You wouldn’t feed your children rubbish to make them grow would you, please buy the best you can afford! Bring the compost into the greenhouse to warm-up, cold, wet compost isn’t nice to work with and certainly not for germinating seeds!

Start with clean seed trays, cell trays and lids, there is less chance of overwintering bugs and beasties. Don’t forget to label everything you sow with the name and date sown.

As this cold weather continues leave seed sowing unless you can maintain 18°C for most seeds to germinate successfully. Most seeds fail from soil temperatures being too low or too high. A soil thermometer is a great purchase!

The obvious thing is to read the seed packets! Fabulous cultural instructions come with the seeds.


National Nest Box Week: 14– 21st February

Nesting box

Nesting box

Your chance to help our British Birds and give them a New Home!

Look on the web site for more info. I can’t recommend more highly the Woodcrete Nest Boxes.

Keep them fed and watered, there is very little natural food left at this time of year for garden, woodland and farmland birds.

As the days lengthen more birds start to sing. If you are out for a walk stop, close your eyes and listen! Work out how many songs you can hear and from which direction, then see if you can identify them! Good fun. Enjoy.

Daphne ‘Jaqueline Postill’.

Daphne ‘Jaqueline Postill’.

Scent in a garden:

Don’t miss out. Daphnes in flower, sadly in very short supply this year Daphne ‘Jaqueline Postill’.

Here is a picture of my own 10 year old plant.

Keep your gardening/wildlife questions coming in and any topics you would like me to cover in the Horticultural Year to come.  Leave any questions below and I will be happy to answer them for you …

Happy Gardening everybody!

Better weather is on it’s way fairly soon.

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Peter has spent his life gardening, working in garden centres and advising in all aspects of gardening, wildlife, and bio-diversity in horticulture.He managed Clandon Park Garden Centre in Surrey at the age of 23 and was a gardening radio presenter with the BBC. This continued for 15 years, running live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows.Now self-employed, Peter works on a wide variety of gardens from private to large estates and also concentrating on consultancy and advisory work to fellow gardeners. He works with the RHS Gardening Advice team at Chelsea, Hampton Court, Wisley Flower shows and is an RHS External Gardening Advisor

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