Peter’s Gardening Tips for February 2018

This is the month the Gallanthophiles have been waiting for almost a year – The first Snowdrops! They are beginning to poke through and it won’t be long before their little white faces are visible. Often thought of as a British native wild flower, the snowdrop Galanthus is actually an escapee from gardens that has become widely naturalised.

February is the month of winter vagaries, when the thermometer is a gymnast, up it goes on warm days down it comes with biting frosts! Although the garden is looking dormant, there are still jobs to be done outside.


Machinery – perfect time to book in your mower, strimmer, hedge cutter, blower for servicing. You should get a winter discount for most machinery servicing, normally 10% discount – haggle!

Tools in the Shed – Rub down spades, forks, hoes etc with a wire brush, remove all the caked on soil/rust off the metal. Oil them, even using old engine oil on a rag and wipe over the metal. Also, check the tool handles for wood-worm, small pin like holes and treat with wood preservative/wood-worm killer. A job very well worth doing and very satisfying to see your tools all clean and ready for the coming season.

Garden Tools

Time to clean your tools!

Other Indoor jobs – Re-use plant labels by cleaning them, a scouring pad seems to work well, cleaning fluid, a rubber erasure for pencils. Wash old seed trays and pots with hot soapy water or a pressure washer. Check any indoor plants for bugs and beasties lurking and treat. Check stored vegetables, fruit, bulbs and tubers.

Shopping – Armchair – Most seed catalogues are available on-line or by phone request now, so check out the latest stock for the coming season.

Outdoors – Clear gutters and drains of leaves, and also check sheds, greenhouses and garages for any leaks?

Damage caused by the recent storms – Loosened shrubs from wind rock need cutting back or firming in with your boots. Cut back shrub, hybrid T and floribunda Roses if not tackled already by 50 %. Stake and tie trees and shrubs loosened or fallen, cut back damaged branches, torn branches need cutting back below the break to help them back into health. Climbers pulled away from trellis, walls and fences tie back in or cut back if badly damaged. Check all tree ties and wires holding up plants to structures that they are not too tight, I have found wire strangling roses, wisteria and fruit trees on many occasions!

Try to keep off the lawned areas of the garden as much as possible, I know this is difficult with fences down and repair work to do, but it will benefit long-term.

Shopping at Garden Centres and Nurseries – Seed potatoes, shallots, onions, garlic are also arriving in stock now, and many of them will have sales on. If you do buy any plants in pots, don’t plant now, leave them outside in a sheltered corner all together and plant out in March/April time. Summer bulbs, corms and tubers will also be arriving like Dahlias and Gladiolis, keep an eye out!

Planning for the Season to come – You may want to create some raised beds for vegetables and flowers, work out which vegetables did well last year, consider trying something new. Talk and discuss with your friends and share ideas?

Winter Honeysuckle

Winter Honeysuckle

Think about Scent in the Garden – It might seem obvious but the best place for scented plants are near the doors and windows to the house, also by a seating area, patio, bench, pergola, walk-way and paths. There are plenty of choices even in winter, Daphnes, Winter Sweet (Chimonanthus), Christmas Box (Sarcococca), Witch Hazel (Hamamelis), Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera Winter Beauty)… to name a few. Its not too late to order in Sweet Pea seeds and a must have are Roses for scent – the Nations favourite plant. Roses can be ordered now bare-root (no soil around roots and not in a pot). They generally arrive in a plastic bag or damp hessian, plant into pots if the ground is too wet and plant out into their final position in the Spring.

Nest boxes – Wearing gloves empty out the old nests from last year, you may even find a friendly mouse. Birds are actively looking for a nesting site now, when putting up a nest box put it where cats can’t reach, and not facing south as it cooks in the sun, not too close to a feeding station and out of the prevailing winds.  You will find your garden will be home to many more birds.

Blue Tit bathing

Blue Tit bathing

Bird Feeders and Bird Baths – Most at this time of year are pretty foul after all this rain, clean out and throw away all wet food. Ideally, take the feeders apart and wash thoroughly in hot soapy water and allow to dry, remembering to wash your own hands thoroughly afterwards.

Any Other Jobs – Final job is to empty saucers of water from all outdoor pots, and put feet or tiles under pots where possible. If you can manage them, move all the planted pots together without saucers, into a more sheltered corner for frost protection.

Take time-out and go for a walk or even spend time in your own garden. Stand still, stop, look and listen. Take a deep breath and use those senses, including smell. You will be amazed at what you can see in a few minutes even at this time of year, enjoy!

That’s enough from me, happy gardening despite the weather and enjoy the catalogues!

P.S  I am happy to answer any of your gardening questions too, so feel free to leave them below and I will do my best to reply! 

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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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