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Gardening in January and February: prepare for the year ahead

Gardening in January and February: prepare for the year ahead

 

Gardening in January and February: It might be cold but the garden is starting to come alive, so get digging, feeding, mulching and pruning in preparation for the year ahead.

Shrubs

• It's time to prune deciduous shrubs and fruit trees, before the sap starts to rise and the buds break. Cut out anything that's dead, diseased or damaged. Also look at the shape of trees and shrubs – rounded is usually best, with no crossing branches.

However if you're dealing with a large tree it's probably better to leave it to a tree surgeon.

Perennials

• If you want to grow something a bit different, think about planting seeds, as it gives you an enormous range of options.

Fruit and vegetables

• The vegetable garden is all about preparation at this time of year, but there are a few things you can start to sow.

• Digging is the thing to do now. Leave the soil in rough chunks and it will be broken down by the weather in time for sowing.

• Potatoes, onion sets and shallots can be planted in a few weeks so it's a good idea to order them now.

Cut back autumn-fruiting raspberries. These flower and fruit on this year's growth, so if you cut back the old stems, you'll encourage new growth and get a better crop.

• Sow early crops of hardy broad beans outdoors. If you don't have much space, investigate dwarf vegetables. Keep going with successional sowings of hardy broad beans.

• If you have room under cover, you can sow tender vegetables such as tomatoes, chillies, peppers and cucumbers.

• You can also start on some of the more hardy vegetables that just need a bit of protection, such as broad beans, beetroot, carrots and early peas.

Hedges

• This is a good month to plant hedges. It's worth looking out for bare-root plants as they're cheaper than pot-grown ones. They're dug up from the field and posted directly to you so they miss out on all the costs of watering and re-potting that bump up the price of container-grown plants. The availability of bare-root plants depends on the weather but they should be around until the end of February and into March.

Roses

• If you didn't do it in autumn, this is the time to prune roses and other summer-flowering shrubs such as late clematis and buddleias. This pruning is for flowers and there's a simple way to approach it; every time you make a cut, and always cut just above a bud, imagine a new stem coming from that bud with a season's growth with a flower on the end of it. So if you want your flowers dotted around the plant, prune as far down to the ground as you can get.

IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING...

...get ready to feed your plants. They're about to have a huge growth surge and it would really help them get off to a good start. If you have time, dig in well-rotted organic matter but, for a quick fix, sprinkle a balanced fertiliser onto the soil.

 

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