What to do in the garden in February

What to do in the garden in February

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

83 guides

February is a chilly month meaning there's not a huge amount you can do in the garden. That said, the days are getting longer and nature is coming out of hibernation little by little. If the weather allows it, you may even be able to cautiously start sowing a few seeds under cold frames towards the end of the month.

Important features

  • Seedlings
  • Preparing the soil
  • Hot beds
  • Pruning
  • Cleaning up
  • Tree care
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From mid-February onwards, the most impatient gardeners might be able to start sowing seeds in greenhouses or under cold frames (as long as you're aware of the risks!). If you simply can't wait, try starting the following seedlings:

  • summer leeks;
  • lettuces;
  • head cabbages;
  • cauliflowers;
  • radishes;
  • turnips.

You can also sow broad bean, smooth pea and parsley seeds directly in the ground but be sure to protect them as winter isn't over yet! If it's warm enough at the end of the month you can plant shallots, onions and some varieties of garlic in the ground.

If you live in the south of the country, you might be able to get your garden started a bit sooner. For example, carrot seeds can be sown directly in the ground along with chicory, spinach, broad bean, lamb's lettuce, leek, pea, and red and yellow onion seeds.

Preparing your summer veg in the greenhouse

Towards the end of the month you can start some summer seedlings in grow boxes, mini greenhouses or in pots as long as they are kept at a temperature of at least 20°C. This includes things like melons, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and cucumbers. However, remember that warmth alone won't be enough: your seedlings will also need a lot of light if you don't want them to wither away.

Don't forget to give your potatoes some light, too, and to keep them in a warm room so that they sprout well; bear in mind that organic potato varieties are more mildew-resistant.

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Plant covers

Used at the end of winter or the start of spring, a hot bed can help you to get a few weeks ahead on your seedlings. This technique is generally used for plants that will be transplanted later on such as:

  • batavia lettuce;
  • butterhead lettuce;
  • red cabbages;
  • summer cauliflowers;
  • baby greens;
  • flat and curly parsley;
  • peppers;
  • tomatoes.

Making your own hot bed in 4 steps 

  1. Build a wooden frame using a few planks of wood.
  2. Lay a layer of at least 30 cm of fresh horse or cow manure at the base of the box and pack it down well. As the manure ferments it will heat up the frame. You can mix the manure with some compost, mulch or dry leaves. The temperature of your box will depend on the materials you use but you may get up to 15 to 20°C after a few weeks.
  3. Cover your seedlings with a layer or potting soil spread around 20 cm thick.
  4. Lay some straw around the box to prevent heat loss and cover it with a transparent glass or polycarbonate panel. 

On sunny days, you can air out your frame for short periods of time. But be sure to close your frame as soon as evening approaches.

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Potting soil

Planting ornamental plants in February

There's still time to plant deciduous or bare root trees, shrubs or rose bushes. Continue planting perennials and biennials:

  • asters;
  • columbine;
  • bellflowers;
  • coneflowers;
  • Christmas roses (Helleborus niger);
  • Japanese anemone.

You can also plant things like: 

  • rhododendrons;
  • azalea;
  • camelias;
  • hydrangea;
  • Acer japonicum;
  • magnolias.

Caring for your plants 

Cut any dried out or old branches from your hydrangeas.

Cut your summer-flowering clematis down to about 30 to 40 cm from the ground to encourage new growth at the base.

Remove dry and rotten leaves from around your plants.

Sowing, dividing and repotting plants 

Start tuberous begonia and coneflowers under cold frames alongside annuals and biennials like marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, wallflowers, verbena, calceolar, pelargoniums and ageratums.

You can divide your snowdrops once they've finished flowering. You can also divide Japanese marigold bushes and pampas grass.

Any daffodils, crocuses or hyacinths that you forced in pots that have now finished blossoming can be planted in the garden.

Repot plants that have grown a little tight in their pots or plant any that have grown too large in the ground.

At the end of the month provide your trees with some manure. Any dry fertilisers like hoof and horn, powders or soil amendments like ground limestone can be dug in lightly using a rake or fork hoe. If you choose to add compost, however, simply spread it over the surface of the soil.

Prune apple, pear or quince trees, as well as any climbing plants. Now is the right time to prune blackcurrant or gooseberry bushes that are already in place. You also still have time to plant any new bushes.

Continue to prune trees by cutting off dead or poorly positioned branches. Treat peach trees using a Bordeaux mixture or a horsetail slurry as soon as the buds start to part as this means your tree is about to start putting out leaves. This treatment will help to prevent diseases such as peach scab, brown rot or peach leaf curl.

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Any home gardener knows that the secret to success involves matching your gardening tasks to the seasons. Our expert gardening guides are designed to help you tick off those jobs along the way and get your outdoor space looking and performing its best!

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Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 83 guides

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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