February is here but what can you do in the garden in this ‘in between month’? More top tips from Adam Kirtland.
February is a rather strange month in the garden, not quite here and not quite there – somewhere in the middle! We’re all familiar with ‘the bit between Christmas and new year’ aren’t we? Well, February is the month equivalent of that! We’re still in winter but it feels as though we’ve got a careful eye on spring approaching us at a breakneck speed just around the corner.
But what can we be doing in the garden? Thankfully, there is plenty to keep out twitchy green fingers happy!
Depending on who you ask, will depend on what response you get to the question: “Is it too early to start sowing seeds?” My answer is: “It depends!” It largely depends on the amount of time you’ve got, how much patience you may (or may not!) have and if you’ve got the space to be nurturing baby seedlings indoors (or in a heated greenhouse if you’ve got one).
Sowing seeds now requires some extra warmth from grow lamps and usually some bottom heat too from heat mats or heated propagators, so if you are thinking about it then you’ll need some of those to get you going. Once you’re set with those then you’ve got quite a few options with regards to the seeds you can choose. You could opt to start your annuals, such as Cosmos, nice and early to give you a head start. Or in the veg garden, your tomatoes could get going now, too.
February is the optimal time to purchase snowdrops ‘in the green’. This means you’re buying and planting these delicate bulbs while they are still actively growing. ‘In the green’ refers to the state of the plant when it has leaves and is typically in flower, ensuring its success rather than buying them as just bulbs.
Buying snowdrops at this stage allows for immediate establishment, as the bulbs are already acclimated to the soil. This enhances their chances of successful growth and promotes quicker, more robust flowering in the current season. February marks the ideal window for this, aligning with the end of their natural flowering period. If you happen to already have snowdrops then now is also a great time to lift them, divide large clumps and spread them around your garden.
Late winter is the prime time to chit your potatoes. Chitting is a pre-planting process where you encourage potato tubers to sprout before putting them in the soil, promoting quicker and more vigorous growth. To chit potatoes, select healthy tubers with eyes or buds. Place them in a cool, bright spot, such as an egg carton or trays, ensuring the eyes face upward.
Allow them to sit for four-to-six weeks, allowing sturdy sprouts to emerge. This simple step kickstarts the growing process and leads to healthier plants when finally planted in the garden. By chitting now, you’re setting the stage for a successful potato crop, taking advantage of the natural growing season and ensuring a bountiful harvest in the months to come… hopefully!
As the days lengthen and the promise of warmer weather beckons, now is an opportune moment to get yourself some summer bulbs like gladioli and or tubers, such as dahlias. These bulbs are best planted in spring, taking advantage of the increasing sunlight and milder temperatures. Purchasing them now allows for timely preparation as plants like dahlias are often better planted into small pots, to begin growing – before then planting out after the risk of frost has passed.
When buying gladioli bulbs, look for well-formed, firm corms, while dahlia tubers should be plump and free from any signs of rot or mould. Both do well in a place in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight during the day and not so much rain. Over the coming months, I’ll bring you some more ideas for dahlias planting and what to do with them as they grow on.