February in the garden

With David Williams

All your bulbs should be poking their heads above the soil now. Bulbs are one of the earliest plants to start growing. Even in the coldest, wettest soil and weather they start to grow this month, with some already in flower such as snowdrops. There are some great places to go and see snow drops in the area. One of the best is Colesbourne gardens, www.colesbournegardens.org.uk.  They have one of the best collections of snowdrops in the country. There woods are covered in a sea of white as far as the eye can see. It is definitely worth a visit to one of their open weekends this month.

Seed sowing season is nearly upon us. Now is a good time to get your seed box out, to both see what seeds you have, and to also check that they are still in date and then work out what you want to grow this year. Make a list, ticking off all the seeds you already have and make a wish list of those you would like and source them at your local garden centre. If you have lots of spare seed packets and lots of seeds you have saved from your own plants then why not take them along to your local seed swap? One of the best ones in the area is ‘Northampton’s Seedy Saturday’ which takes place on 13th February at The Holy Sepulchre church hall. There will be lots of seeds to swap, talks and stalls and entry is free. Seed swaps are a great way to find new varieties that are not available from the main seed suppliers.

Once you have all your seeds you will need to have everything ready to sow them. In your greenhouse, make sure all of your pots are washed and that you have lots of good quality compost ready to use. Be warned however; don’t be tempted to sow your seeds too early, even if the weather dose turn lovely and warm, remember that you can still get frosts in May. Plants that are sown too early can become leggy due to lack of sun and produce poor plants. You are always better off waiting especially if you are growing on a window still. Nature will always catch up so you are better off, at the beginning of the year, sowing later rather than earlier.

Outside there will be lots to keep you busy. It is the time to cut back any last perennials that you never got round to at the end of last year. Make sure you rake up the last of the winter debris lying over your borders and then add a good mulch in with your compost. If you have bulbs growing in your borders don’t worry about mulching over the top of them as long as they are only about an inch or two (3-6cm) tall they will just carry on growing through the mulch.

If the weather has been warmer than usual (which it has in most parts) it can encourage plants to start growing too early. If this is the case in your garden then it would be a wise move to protect the tender plants with a bit of fleece to keep any frost off them.

In the vegetable garden finish off any digging that needs doing. Section off and cover up a bit of land where you are going to be doing your early seed sowing. This will help warm the soil up. In order to keep the heat in it is best to use black polythene as it absorbs sunlight.

Make sure all your fruit trees and bushes have been mulched with a good layer of garden compost or well-rotted manure also look out for any early blossom. Protect the blossom from frost by covering in fleece. Remember that if your flowers get killed off by frost, you will have no fruit later on.

But one new vegetable you have to try this year is the new Egg and Chips plant by Thompson and Morgan. This is a great new development by the pair. A couple of years ago you may remember that they introduced the tom tato which was a cross between a tomato and potato. Now they have used the same grafting technique to join an aubergine to a potato plant. This is a great plant for someone who has not got a lot of space but wants to grow some of their own veg. It will produce about 3-4 good size aubergines and 2kg of potatoes I should point out that this is not genetically modified it is a grafted plant this is well worth a try this year.