February Gardening Jobsi
What to Do in the Garden in February: Staying On Top of Winter Maintenances
While February is technically still winter, temperatures are slowly but surely starting to rise – meaning that your garden is beginning to come back to life.
Your main outdoor jobs this month are to keep pruning any plants that you didn’t get around to in January and to stay on top of general hygiene tasks ahead of spring.
To help you stay on track, we’ve put together a checklist of essential garden tasks to do in February. Jamie Shipley, our Managing Director here at Hedges Direct, has also shared his expert tips for how to tackle your to-do list.
- Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Garden maintenance
- Pests and diseases?
Top garden jobs to do in February
Trees, hedges, and shrubs
- Prune deciduous shrubs that have flowered over winter
February may be your last chance to prune winter-flowering deciduous shrubs. It’s best to do this straight after they have flowered, so the exact timing will vary from species to species.
This type of formative pruning will help to promote plant growth for the year ahead by removing any dead or diseased branches, to encourage the formation of new and healthy shoots. Pruning immediately after flowering also gives the shrub as much time as possible to regrow in the summer, which will bloom next winter.
Some winter and early spring-flowering species that can benefit from pruning in February are:
- Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currants)
- Forsythia intermedia Lynwood Gold (Forsythia)
- Philadelphus Belle Etoile (Mock Orange)
- Prune evergreen shrubs and hedges
If there are any evergreen hedges that you didn’t get around to pruning in January, look to get these ticked off your list this month.
For the most part, established evergreen hedges are fairly sturdy and can handle being pruned in the colder months – in fact, it’s recommended as they tend to be dormant in winter and are less likely to bleed when cut back. Just make sure that you do so after any frost to minimise the chance of frost damage.
Prune these evergreen species after they have flowered:
- Buxus (Box)
- Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom)
- Lavandula (Lavender)
Any evergreen shrubs that are still flowering should be pruned afterwards.
If your evergreens have been long neglected or are overgrown, they can benefit from strong pruning to help renovate them. These can be cut back to ground level but always follow up with fertiliser and mulch.
Learn more about how to trim hedges here.
- Give extra care to climbing plants
As we enter into early spring, it’s possible to start tackling climbing plants. It all depends on the weather conditions, which can vary from year to year, so keep an eye out for mild spells in February. It’s a great opportunity to prune climbers like wisteria and clematis to encourage them to flower.
These can be fast-growing and vigorous climbers, giving them a reputation for being troublesome to prune, but here are our top tips for cutting them back
Wisteria is a spectacular plant known for its fragrant and dramatic blooms, but getting them to flower can be tricky for many gardeners. To encourage yearly flowering, it is essential to prune this climber twice a year: once in spring and again in late summer.
Its rapid growth means that it needs to be pruned severely, but without cutting off any of the buds, so that the plant can focus its energy into flowering instead of producing new leaves. Intense pruning will also help to prevent it from overgrowing.
Hard pruning will help to prevent it overgrowing and should reward you with colourful flowers in late spring or early summer.
Most clematis species can be split into two categories: midsummer flowering and late-summer flowering. Both need to be pruned once a year to retain their shape and promote new flowers.
Midsummer-flowering clematis can benefit from a lighter pruning in February and may sometimes flower again in late summer.
Late-summer flowering clematis species will need a harder prune. If your plant is established, cut the stems back to the lowest pair of buds above the soil; young clematis can be cut back to a minimum of 30 cm above the soil.
- Continue to plant bare-root hedging plants
As long as the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen, you can continue to plant bare-root trees and hedging plants. Check for any wind on the day too, as that can also dry out the roots before they hit the soil.
To give your plants the best chance of establishing, you should aim to get them into the ground as soon as possible after receiving them. If weather conditions mean that you need to delay when you are going to plant them, you must keep the roots moist.
For more details, read our full guide on how to plant a bare-root hedge here.
- Relocate deciduous shrubs
Moving any type of plant will cause stress to the established system, but there are things you can do to try and mitigate the potential damage.
The rate of stress also depends on the age of the plant. Younger shrubs have a higher tolerance to being transplanted, whereas older, established plants are much more likely to suffer shock or even die. If a shrub has been planted in the same spot for over five years, consider renovation instead.
For deciduous shrubs and trees, the best time to relocate them is in the dormant season which runs from October to March.
To help you transplant your shrubs, follow our step-by-step instructions:
- Try to pick a day that’s forecasted with little wind to prevent the roots from drying out. The day before, generously water the soil.
- On the day of replanting, dig out a large hole for where you want to move the shrub to. It should be at least 30cm deep.
- Carefully dig around the base of the plant. Established plants may have a wide-spread root spread, so you may need to dig up to 1.5-2 metres around the plant.
- Raise the plant out of the soil by holding onto as much of the root ball as possible.
- Rest the plant into the new hole and spread the roots out. You may find that you need to increase the width of the excavated site to fit all the roots.
- Pack in the spaces around the roots with soil and pat firmly to remove any air.
- Taller plants might need to be staked into the ground to keep the structure stable against the wind.
- Water the ground thoroughly around the newly relocated plant.
- Plant flower bulbs
February opens up a wider range of flower bulbs which can be planted directly into the ground.
While these are best planted at the end of summer, they can also be planted this month to flower in late spring
Allium bulbs are fairly hardy and stand up well against any lingering winter temperatures in February, but they must be planted into well-draining soil.
Like allium bulbs, lilies tend to be planted in autumn but this can also be done in February.
Lilies are usually easy to grow if you have the right soil conditions. A rich, well-draining soil provides the best environment for the bulbs to flourish. Plant in groups of three or five in borders, or plant into pots if your garden is susceptible to wet, heavy soil
Crocosmia can be planted in February to flower from summer through to autumn. They can be planted in bulb-like corms and produce beautiful blooms in their first year.
Crocosmia corms should be planted with the root facing down and in groups, but individual corms should be spaced around 10-20 cm apart as they will expand over time.
- Continue to lay new turf
Make the most of February for laying any turf before it’s too late.
The best time to lay new turf is between the middle of autumn up until late winter – provided conditions aren’t frosty or overly wet. Turves laid any later will need to be watered routinely to prevent them from drying out; if the soil dries out or is mowed too early, you may hinder the turf’s ability to take root.
The key to helping new turf to establish is to prepare the seed bed by removing all weeds and cultivating it with a layer of organic matter. To ensure the turf is even and doesn’t dip as it takes root, rake the surface thoroughly before laying the turf.
Once it’s laid, water it if conditions are dry and take care to avoid stepping on it for a minimum of three weeks while it roots.
For more detailed information, take a look at our guide to winter lawn and turf care.
- Trim your lawn for spring
If you have an established lawn, it’s time to start preparing it for spring.
February temperatures can vary, but if it’s mild and dry, you can give your lawn a mow if it needs tidying. However, raise the blade height to the highest setting to avoid cutting too close to the bottom of the grass blades.
Grass is still in its dormant state in February so keeping its leaves as long as possible will give it more surface area to photosynthesise sunlight, particularly towards the end of winter when there are fewer hours of daylight.
Find out how to keep your lawn in the best condition with our guide.
- Remove heavy snow from shrubs, hedges, and conifers
Alternatively, if February has brought heavy snowfall, make sure to shake it off from your trees, shrubs, and hedges.
Try to do this as soon as you can to prevent your plants from breaking; a heavy blanket of snow can easily snap and damage more delicate branches and leaves.
To remove snow from your shrubs and hedges, brush off what you can reach first. For those areas that are too high, give the branches a gentle shake using a rake or a broom. Take care not to move them too aggressively as that can also cause damage to the plant.
If snow has frozen onto the branches, it’s recommended to wait until the temperature rises and the snow thaws before trying to dislodge it.
- Tend to evergreen ornamental grasses
Evergreen ornamental grasses can be tended to in February. They mostly don’t require hard pruning the same way deciduous grasses do, instead, it’s best to just remove any dead leaves to tidy it up.
Trim any brown or dying leaves that are visible, these are usually around the bottom of the plant.
For flowering grasses like sedges, you can cut away any stems that have already flowered.
- Mow the lawn
Spring hasn’t arrived yet, so it’s always worth leaving clean water and fresh food out to give birds a helping hand in the winter months when their natural diet is in short supply. If the ground is frosty or too hard, they may struggle to dig for worms, caterpillars, and grubs.
Melt your bird baths if they’ve frozen over and give your bird feeders a refill of high-energy seeds. February is also a good time to give them a thorough clean ahead of the warmer months.
A feeder full of grains is a great way to attract different species into your garden – and, in turn, they may reward you in the summertime by coming back to eat the pests that could otherwise hurt your plants.
Find out which birds you might spot in the winter here.
Pests and diseases
- Rots on perennials and shrubs
Heavy rainfall and waterlogged soil are the perfect conditions for phytophthora root rot to infect many plants and shrubs.
The soil-based disease will initially attack roots, but severe cases can cause it to spread to the stems and lower foliage of plants. The above-ground symptoms of phytophthora to watch out for are wilting or yellowing leaves, caused by the root system struggling to absorb nutrients from waterlogged soil.
If you notice root rot in your garden, take immediate action by removing any infected plants to reduce the chances of the disease spreading in the soil. The surrounding soil from the infected plant should also be safely disposed of and any tools used in the process should be cleaned with disinfectant.
- Box blight
Wet, wintry conditions also mean that plants are susceptible to wind-borne diseases like box blight.
Like root rot, box blight causes leaves to turn brown or yellow, with them eventually falling off the plant and causing bare patches.
To catch box blight early, look for white spores on the underside of fallen, infested leaves. This foliage should then be disposed of and removed from your garden immediately to limit any potential spread. You can also prune infected branches, but you must always thoroughly disinfect your pruning tools afterwards.
Learn more about box blight and caring for box hedging here.
- Coral spot
While trees are still bare in winter, it’s easier to spot coral spot disease on branches. The fungus infects dead or dying branches and stems, before spreading to living wood to cause the plant to further die back.
The main symptom of coral spot are small pink-coloured bumps. These produce spores that can travel to other parts of the plant, or even be blown to neighbouring shrubs in windy weather.
To limit the effects of coral spot, prune any affected areas as soon as you spot the bumps and dispose of the cuttings straightaway.
Specific Prunus tree species are susceptible to bacterial cankers, including:
Cankers tend to form in springtime, so staying vigilant in February can help you to identify them early. Look out for patches of dead and discoloured bark on the stems and trunks of trees and prune back any affected branches to cut out the disease. Once trimmed, apply a tree wound paint as soon as possible to avoid the incision getting infected again.
Read up on our full list of pests and diseases to look out for here.
If you’re looking to sow the seeds for spring and get ahead on your to-do list, take a look at what to do in your garden in March.
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