Garden jobs for February: what to plant and what to do

20 January 2021

February can see gardens spring to life with late winter flowers like snowdrops and winter aconites. Find out what to do this month to get your garden in good shape for spring.



What to plant in February

Flowers to plant in February

Now’s the time to buy snowdrops while they're flowering, known as 'in the green'. . You can buy them potted, or for a cheaper option wait until just after flowering and buy lifted plants wrapped in paper. Plant in a spot with dappled light, or at the foot of a tree or shrub. Plant at the same depth they were growing before, so the ground is level with the top of the pot or, if lifted, where the leaves are turning yellow. Keep them watered until established and make sure they don’t get overrun by weeds.

If you have established clumps that are getting congested it’s a good idea to dig these up and break apart the bulbs, replanting with space between. This way you can help to avoid disease.

After flowering snowdrops can be given a slight boost after their exertions with couple of weekly liquid feeds using a tomato fertiliser.

In February there's still time to plant bare root plants such as roses and hedging. 

Vegetable seeds to plant in February

Plant onion and shallot sets leaving the tips just showing. Do watch out that the birds don’t tug some of your freshly sprouting onions out again. 

Usually, this annoyance is quickly remedied by snipping off any longer tips before planting and by planting before the shoots sprout. If you find any lifted sets lying on top of the soil simply firm them back into the earth. After the first couple of weeks the roots usually put themselves down and such troubles should be over. If you garden on heavy clay soil it’s worth waiting a little longer until the earth warms up.

You can can also start chitting your potatoes now and plant some vegetable seeds under glass, including leeks, broad beans and lettuce.

Garden jobs for February

Repair or replace broken fences

Now is the perfect time before new growth starts and quickly covers the fence, putting the structure under even more pressure.

Find out what to do about a neighbour's tatty fence

Keep paths clear

It hardly needs saying but do watch that paths don’t become lethal in the cold and wet. There are plenty of gadgets for such jobs – pressure hoses and what not – but a stiff metal brush on a long handle works well and warms the muscles.

Weeding

Weed seedlings seem to defy winter so hoik any visible culprits out, but try to keep off the soil because many a plant or bulb may be lurking underfoot. A cheap kneeler is a good thing to stand on if you have to get on a border, because it will prevent damp soil from compacting. Carry on weeding throughout March and it will save you lots of work later. A long-handled hand-fork is an ideal tool. Spear & Jackson does one in its Kew Range.

Write up your labels

Writing labels in quieter moments pays dividends once spring comes, because they can simply be popped straight into the ground or seed tray. Re-use your plastic labels if at all possible, or invest in some slate, wood or aluminium labels and that way you’ll use less plastic.

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Deadheading and pruning

Cut down to the ground autumn fruiting raspberry canes.

Blackcurrants should be pruned. On established bushes aim to remove a third of old wood (two years and more) cutting down to the base of the stems.

Red and white currants and gooseberries should be winter pruned if not yet done, as do apple and pear trees.

Find out how to prune an overgrown apple tree

Prune winter flowering shrubs once they have finished blooming. If you don’t have any already do consider buying some winter scent. Daphne, viburnum and sarcococca are all wonderful at giving you a bit of a boost as you walk past and catch a drift of their sweet smell on low, dark days.

Now is also the time to winter prune wisteria and you can trim back jasmine to encourage new shoots.

Cut back late-season grasses and perennials in February instead of autumn. Leaving grasses and stiff-stemmed perennials can be left to catch frost and add movement. They also shelter lots of tiny insects, while insect-eating birds, such as wrens, rely on the cover. Goldfinches will clean up the seeds, too, but when new shoots push through it's time for a cull. Miscanthus sinesis, one of the best grasses in winter, will be shooting within the old stems. Aster, sanguisorbas and phloxes are already pushing upward.

Tidy the borders

Late-summer and autumn borders are generally cut back in February, because they provide shelter and winter interest. Many will be starting to grow from the base, so it’s perfect timing. Try to stack the stems in small heaps until spring comes, because there will almost certainly be hibernating insects, such as ladybirds, in amongst the debris. Weed the borders and lift any clumps that have weeds such as couch grass and the like. Break them up, remove the offending weeds and replant the pieces. Any clematis that flowers between midsummer’s day and September can be cut down to the lowest buds. Clematis enthusiasts refer to the cull as the Valentine’s Day massacre.

If, though, hard frosts and further sharp cold is forecast, you may be better holding off for a while yet.

What's flowering in February?

These flowers all provide good nectar for early pollinators in February.

Crocus ‘Vanguard’
Named ‘Vanguard’ because this larger-flowered crocus, collected in Russia, produces its silver and purple goblets a full two weeks earlier than any other large-flowered crocus. Strong enough to naturalise in grass, good in a pot, or plant in full sun on a border edge. 10cm/4in

The Cowslip (Primula veris)
If you want to be wildlife-friendly, leave some of your grass to grow. The cowslip, a daintier plant than the primrose, will happily grow in grass and self-seed. It will also survive hot, dry summers. 15cm/6in

Muscari aucheri ‘Blue Magic’
A scented grape hyacinth with well-behaved foliage and a non-invasive habit. This one has bright-blue flowers narrowly ringed in white. ‘Ocean Magic’ is a baby-blue with hints of green and there’s a pure-white too. They cut well. 10cm/4in

Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica
This Majorcan, no-prune clematis needs a sheltered south-facing wall. In February it will be smothered with masses of pale-green, pendent bells set against dark-green ferny foliage. It’s easy, but this climber can sometimes lose its leaves after a hot summer – although it always revives. 2-3m/up to 10ft

Siberian squill -Scilla siberica
This scilla will happily colonise shadier parts of the garden as it gently self-seeds. The cobalt-blue flowers are enhanced by bright-green foliage and it’s perfect planted under deciduous shrubs and trees. 10cm/4in

For more ideas about what to do in February read our guide to getting a vegetable patch started, plus winter is a great time to get your shed in order while things are quiet

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.