1 February 2024

Head Gardeners’ tips
February 2024

Owen Griffiths - Head Gardener, Wales

For most gardeners, February is the perfect time to start implementing a plan for the year ahead.

Don’t worry if you feel like you still have a lot to prepare; there are plenty of opportunities to do so, especially if it’s too cold or wet to get outside. 

For most gardeners, February is the perfect time to start implementing a plan for the year ahead. Don’t worry if you feel like you still have a lot to prepare; there are plenty of opportunities to do so, especially if it’s too cold or wet to get outside.

On a day when the weather is less favourable, you can inspect and clean your gardening tools. Well-maintained tools make gardening tasks much safer and more efficient. Sharpen blades, oil moving parts, and replace anything that’s worn out. Test the sharpness of your secateurs by trying to cut through paper; they should cut cleanly, like scissors. If not, then they need to be sharpened.

At Horatio’s Garden Wales, we provide habitat for wildlife by leaving a lot of winter structure in the garden. We only cut back old stems that look messy or those that have blown over, ensuring winter interest endures before making way for new growth in spring.

Our bird feeders remain well-stocked to provide forage for birds, and we leave a spattering of leaf litter on the beds to add organic matter to the soil and encourage invertebrates. To entice more wildlife into your garden, consider planting bee-friendly plants, creating a pond, or building a log pile. Did you know that stag beetles depend on undisturbed wood? It can take their larvae up to seven years to grow into adults, so leaving a log pile untouched for a long time is crucial to their survival.

As many plants are dormant at this time of year, there’s an opportunity to do some pruning. The shape of deciduous trees and shrubs becomes much clearer once they’ve dropped their leaves. When pruning, focus on the “three D’s” – remove any dead, diseased, or damaged stems. Then, consider the shape you’d like to achieve. For example, we’ve pruned our shrub roses into a goblet shape, cutting back about a third to encourage flowering and bushy growth.

February is a great time for coppicing too. Hazel poles can be used to create a framework for climbers like runner beans or cucumbers, and thinner branches can be woven together to create supports for herbaceous perennials to grow into later in the year.

It might feel too soon, but actually, this month is an excellent time to start seed sowing. Tomatoes, chillies, or half-hardy annuals like cosmos can be germinated inside. Check the temperature your seeds require for germination online or on your seed packet. A heated propagator is a wonderful gadget for seed sowing because you can set the temperature to ensure a high germination rate. Starting seeds off early in the year enables you to extend the growing season. This can be prolonged further by carrying out repeat sowings throughout spring.

Once germinated, place your seedlings on a windowsill, rotating them daily to prevent leaning towards the light. As the weather improves, move them into a greenhouse or cold frame, but be patient with non-hardy plants and keep them protected until after the last frost.

If this sounds too complicated, don’t worry there are plenty of exciting plants you can sow outside in February. I recommend growing Swiss chard, which has a beautiful flavour and brightens up a vegetable garden. If you cover directly sown seeds with horticultural fleece, it will help them get off to a stronger start.

Mulching is a task I always look forward to at this time of year. At Horatio’s Garden Wales, we mulch with composted bark by spreading it across the surface around our plants. There’s no need to dig the mulch in; weather and soil organisms eventually break it down. Layering onto the soil surface helps suppress weeds, and any that emerge will be much easier to pull out. Avoid mulching with organic matter close to woody stems though because decomposition around the stems could cause them to soften, making the plant more vulnerable to damage or disease.

The benefits of mulching are manifold, helping create greater resilience in the garden. Increasing the amount of organic matter improves soil structure, drainage, moisture retention, and the availability of plant nutrients.

Having a resilient garden can save you a lot of work, and all the planning and preparation you do at this time of year feeds into this. You don’t want to be the person playing catch-up with plants struggling during a summer drought! If you’re getting ready now by sharpening your tools, providing more habitat for wildlife, pruning, and mulching, then you’re taking all the right steps for a successful year ahead.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, remember to take care of yourself. Take moments out of your busy life to appreciate the beauty of your garden. Have a stroll, noting any emerging signs of spring such as hellebores, snowdrops, or the aroma of sweet box. Observing development in your garden throughout the month can give you a wonderful sense of achievement and deepen your connection with nature.

Wishing you wellness in yourself and your garden for the year ahead. There’s so much to look forward to for 2024!

Share this:

Keep in touch

Sign-up to hear the latest news and activities from Horatio’s Garden

By completing this form, you confirm that you are aged 18 years or over and that you are happy to receive emails from Horatio’s Garden in accordance with our Privacy Policy. We will never share your details with anyone else without your express permission.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping