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What to do in the garden in February

red cornus plants - Cornus or dogwood is available to buy from Thompson & Morgan
With winter finally behind us, find out what to do in the garden in February
Image: Flojke

February feels like a turning point in the garden. It’s still cold outside, but there are signs of spring’s imminent arrival everywhere you look. Bulbs are slowly emerging from the ground, and the days are getting longer at last.

This month’s garden jobs are mostly about getting things ready for the spring. But there are also some early sowing and growing tasks to do - you can find those here.

Timely Tips

metal bucket full of dandelion weeds
Clear your garden from perennial weeds, like dandelions.
Image: David Prahl

Use February to get yourself properly prepared for springtime. The following jobs will set you up for your best growing season yet:

  1. Prepare your seed beds. As long as the ground isn’t frozen, you can cultivate beds and start to warm up the soil, with fleece, polythene or cloches, in preparation for sowing in the coming months.

  2. Organise this year’s seeds by sowing date. Get hold of a box with dividers, and file your seed packets by the month they need to be sown in. You’ll be so glad of this effort in the weeks to come.

  3. Check your tools are sound and your garden machinery is working. Give your tools and equipment the once over and apply a little TLC to anything that needs it.

  4. Blitz perennial weeds in your beds and kitchen garden. Dig them up, roots and all, to get a head start on the blighters before the weather warms up.

In the flower garden

Pink Chinese fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) - available from Thompson & Morgan
Prune back old foliage from ornamental grasses for summer
Image: Pennisetum alopecuroides by Thompson & Morgan

Here are your main tasks in the flower garden this month:

Pruning and tidying

  • Prune wisteria now, cutting back summer side-shoots to 2 or 3 buds.

  • Cut back shrubs, such as cornus and salix cultivars (grown for their colourful winter stems), down to their bases.

  • Prune summer-flowering clematis towards the end of the month, before active growth begins. For advice on the best way to do it, check our clematis pruning guide.

  • Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins. Clip them to within a few centimetres of the ground.

  • Prune overwintered fuchsias back to one or two buds on each shoot.

  • Prune winter-flowering jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) after flowering, to encourage new growth for next year’s blooms. Cut back the previous year’s growth to 5cm from the old wood.

  • Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent plants becoming leggy.

  • Prune winter-flowering shrubs such as mahonia and viburnum x bodnantense once their colourful display has finished.

  • Remove faded flowers from winter pansies to stop them setting seed. This will encourage a flush of new flowers when the weather warms up.

Other jobs in the flower garden

snowdrop bulbs lying on grass ready to be divided
February's the time to life and divide snowdrops
Image: Paul Maguire
  • Lift and divide snowdrops still 'in the green', if you want to move them or create more plants.

  • Move any deciduous trees or shrubs that need repositioning now, provided the soil is not frozen or waterlogged.

  • Look out for hellebore leaf spot (rounded brown spots on the leaves) and remove any leaves that are affected.

In the vegetable garden

chitted potatoes sitting in a egg carton
It's time to chit the early potatoes
Image: J Davidson

There are a few jobs to be done in the vegetable garden:

  • Start chitting early potatoes- stand them on end in a module tray or egg box and place them in a bright, cool, frost-free place.

  • Mulch perennial vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes with well-rotted manure or garden compost.

  • Buildraised beds now, before the growing season gets underway. Raised beds allow you to make an early start in the garden; the soil warms up faster and raised beds drain quickly too, so they’re a great way to deal with clay soils.

  • Prepare vegetable seed beds by removing all weeds and forking in plenty of compost. Cover prepared soil with sheets of black plastic to keep it drier and warmer in preparation for spring planting.

  • Rake lime into acid soils.

  • • Continue controlling against slugs.

  • Remove yellowing leaves from brassicas, including Brussels sprouts, to prevent brassica downy mildew and grey mould from spreading.

  • Tidy up vegetable plots, removing any remaining plant debris.

In the fruit garden

pink peach blossom flower against the blue sky
Protect the delicate peach blossom from February frost
Image: Adriana33

Get into the fruit garden to protect and prune plants.

  • Prune raspberry canes. It’s your last chance to cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes to the ground to stimulate new canes to fruit in the autumn. Cut the tips of summer-fruiting raspberry canes that have grown beyond the top of their supports; cut just above a bud.

  • Prune blackcurrant bushes, gooseberries andredcurrants to maintain a productive framework.

  • Mulch fruit trees with well-rotted manure or garden compost, taking care not to mound mulch up around the trunk.

  • Winter prune apple trees and pear trees while they're still dormant. This is your last chance to do so.

  • Leave plum trees, cherry trees and apricots until the summer as pruning these fruit trees now will make them susceptible to Silver Leaf disease.

  • Protect blossoms on apricots, nectarines and peaches from frost, but make sure pollinating insects can still reach the flowers.

  • Force rhubarb plants for an early crop.

  • Cover outdoor strawberries with cloches to encourage an earlier crop.

  • Top dress fruit bushes with a slow-release, potassium-rich fertiliser to feed plants for the forthcoming season

  • • Check stored fruit and remove any rotten fruit.

Looking after your lawn

Remember to keep off the grass when there’s a frost, as the blades are more susceptible to damage.

With spring on the way it’s worth preparing your lawn for the season ahead. Try installing lawn edging, which gives a neat and tidy appearance and makes maintenance easier.

Other jobs about the garden

great tit clinging onto a bird feeder full of fat balls
Keep your feathered friends in mind during the colder months
Image: taviphoto

Here are some of the other jobs to do around the garden this February:

  • Trim deciduous hedges before the birds start nesting.

  • Cut back vines such as ivy, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy. Doing this now helps keep windows, gutters and roof tiles clear.

  • Shred or chop any woody prunings before you add them to compost bins, as this will help speed up decomposition.

  • Wash empty pots by scrubbing them with hot water and a mild detergent. Rinse them well afterwards.

  • Keep feeding the birds. The weather is still cold this month so hang fat balls and keep bird feeders topped up.

  • Install water butts now ready for the summer. Rainwater is particularly useful for watering acid-loving, ericaceous plants (tap water is often slightly alkaline).

  • Find out what type of soil you have. Invest in a soil testing kit to help you choose the right plants for your garden.

From your armchair

handwritten allotment plant with different vegetables
Plan your vegetable plot
Image: Lavender and Leeks
  • Plan your vegetable plot for this year to ensure good crop rotation and prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil.

  • Order seeds and plug plants online now. Having a garden plan drawn up will help you decide the quantities you need.

  • Buy onion sets and asparagus crowns ready for planting in the spring.

  • Order flower bulbs for summer colour, such as lily-of-the-valley and gladioli, in preparation for spring planting.

  • Choose fruit trees now for planting in early spring. If space is limited in your garden try growing dwarf fruit trees, or edging vegetable plots with stepover apple and pear trees.

RedEye