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Welcome to February! There’s so much to talk about this month, did you make the most of your veggies and take part in Veganuary? It’s the time of year that we really start to think about making a fresh start with many things, health is often the first thing in mind..
Eating well and incorporating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and spending more time outdoors is going to make a huge difference.
Research has proven that spending more time outdoors promotes our mental health too. It’s too easy to not take half an hour out of the day for yourself and go for a walk. Try and think about what part of the day you could realistically do it.
Changing our habits isn’t easy but once you have created a new habit it’s amazing!
Even though it’s not spring yet, we are seeing the first signs of life outdoors already, with snowdrops and daffodils emerging.
Wintertime can be pretty dull in the garden, but we can take every opportunity to add in colour and fragrance. Winter flowering clematis, Jasmine, Cornus, Viburnum and Sarcococca to name a few of my favourites.
We can brighten it up inside the home with fresh flowers and flowering house plants, even nice greenhouse plants benefit us in many ways too but I’ll leave that for another day!
This is the time to start planting shrubs and bare-root trees whilst we are in the dormant season. Ensure that the ground is not frozen or waterlogged. If you have room for planting fruit trees, it might not be an orchard but a couple of fruit trees if you have the space would be a fabulous addition to any garden.
Make sure you have a nice sunny spot that won’t get shaded and it is well away from any hedging, also that there are no old roots in the ground. Planting in a pot on the patio is always an option too for smaller varieties.
Spacing-wise, it depends on what type of rootstock you have. This means how vigorous the tree will be. Ensure you plant at least two of each type, so, two apples, two pears for example. Also check that they are compatible with each other, that they flower at the same time to allow for pollination.
Bare root trees will arrive with their roots wrapped, when preparing for planting make sure the roots are damp, and place in a bucket of water if needed. Don’t allow roots to dry out. If planting is delayed keep a check on the roots and keep them wrapped up. If it’s going to be delayed longer then dig a trench to keep them in until you are ready.
Dig a square hole to make sure roots don’t spiral around, allow roots to fit comfortably and dig at least two spits deep (a spade depth is referred to as a spit). Loosen the soil at the sides and bottom of the hole.
Hold the stem in place and if staking is required, place this at the side of the stem allowing it to pass between the roots. Hammer it into the soil to securely support the tree and then use tree strapping or ties to stop the steak rubbing against the bark.
Start to backfill the hole, shake the tree as you go to allow the air pockets to be filled and firm in as you go. Lie a stick across the planting hole to ensure the soil level doesn’t come up and higher than it was previously planted. Make sure you are clear of the graft union.
Finish by firming in well with your heel and water well. When watering grafted trees it’s very important to keep the tree well watered or they can dry out and die off above the union.
If you have any perennials now is a good time to cut them back, you should start to see new growth emerging, this will really smarten the garden up. It’s nice to see seed and dry flower heads through the winter, especially as the frost covers them but now is the time to tidy anything you’re able to.
Take care not to prune summer flowering shrubs, just take out any dead, damaged, diseased or crossing stems. Allow good airflow and shape to allow light in too which will help create a healthy plant. Examples of these could be Hydrangea, Buddleja, and Dogwood. Don’t forget to make a clean angled cut sloping away and above a bud.
It’s too cold to put them into the ground now, so get them started indoors ready for planting in about six weeks time. Place your seed potatoes with the eyes uppermost in egg boxes. Place them in a cool light room. Our porch is a really good spot for us. The sprouting shoots need to be about 2cm in length when ready. Label your varieties and leave them to it. What could be easier!
We have been keeping an eye out for all the little birds visiting our garden and putting out bird-feeders for them. The RSPB was running the big garden birdwatch at the end of January, where there was lots of information and the chance to join in.
It’s not too late though to still the birds. Still put food out for the birds until at least April to ensure they are able to feed whilst their own food sources may be scarce.
If possible it would be great to be able to add a nest box! Keep an eye out for the types of birds visiting your garden, depending on the bird will help you decide what type of nest box, and where to place it. Whichever one you choose, make sure that it is in a safe place for them away from any danger also ensure that the hole is high enough up to prevent chicks from falling out.
Try to make sure there is an available water source in your garden too in the wintertime. It could become frozen so check this and make sure it is topped up in the warm weather.
Enjoy February! See you back here for my March blog which will include - what veg and summer annuals to sow, planting summer flowering bulbs, and lawn care.