For the hardy souls, February is the month when the planning and preparation for the new season can really begin. The winter hasn’t been too harsh aside from a couple of very cold dips, so getting outside can be pleasant – even more so on a calmer, warmer day.
It is time to prune your pomes but leave your drupes well alone.
A pome is a fruit with pips, apples and pears (also quince and medlars), whereas a drupe is a fruit with a stone, plums, cherries, peaches and apricots.
The dormant winter months are an ideal time to prune the over-congested spurs from pome fruits. Apples and pears are mainly spur-fruiting trees, meaning that the fruits are produced on short lateral branches some 6-12 inches long. When a tree has grown for some time, these spurs become overcrowded. The result is a rather untidy-looking tree that produces lots of blossoms but small, low-quality fruit. If you reduce the spurs, the overall yield won’t increase, but you will get an improvement in the size and quality of the fruit that forms.
Remove the older growth and weak stems to encourage young, vigorous growth behind. It depends on the state of the tree, but you should aim to remove about a third of the spur stems. If you repeat this process every year or two, the tree will eventually be fruiting only on wood that is no more than a few years old.
Fruit tree pruning
If you have an overgrown tree where the fruit is being borne further and further from the trunk each year, it’s a good idea to perform more drastic pruning. Rather than trying to trim the spurs, you need to cut them all off and about a third of the branch too. Cut back to a fork. Cut a third of the branches this year and complete the rest over the next two years.
The dormant season is the best time to do this for apples and pears; it is too late when the buds begin to burst. Drupes, on the other hand, are pruned in the summer when in growth as winter pruning for these carries a high risk of introducing disease.
Make plans. Consider plants and planting
Put canes or a hose pipe across the garden to mark out planned beds, patios or other features. Then ignore it for a few days, look out of the window and change the layout if necessary. Winter is the perfect time to prepare for the coming growing season. Take your time when deciding on your grand design and get it right before you start when the warmer weather and breaking buds tempt you beyond the confines of the fireside (whether metaphorical or literal).
Get your patio or deck ordered and laid now
You’ll certainly get it done quicker and probably also cheaper than later on. Make your mind up and order from a contractor in March and the chances are that by the time you move up the queue, you may not get to sit out until June. Hard areas outside extend the season of use of the garden. Lunch alfresco on a warm April day surrounded by the fresh green shoots of spring is a real delight.
Feed and continue to feed the birds
This gets more important as winter goes on. Don’t forget on the warmer days as well. Hunger isn’t nice whatever the temperature.
Stay off the grass when it frosty
It will recover if left to thaw out, but walking on it can damage many of the blades. I think of it in terms of having cold fingers, simple things like knocking on a door suddenly become incredibly painful, it’s like that for the grass being walked on when frozen.
Order seed catalogues and plan what you’ll grow from seed this year
Think of this as buying genes for the garden. Perfectly packaged and prepared for growth with all they need to get started. Seeds are nature’s own genetic technology. If you’ve never grown anything from seed before, it’s one of gardening’s main wonders. You could try Thompson and Morgan, Suttons or Crocus – or pop into your nearest garden centre or nursery for advice.
Main tree and hedge planting time (still)
The winter months are the best time to plant any trees and hedging or other bare-rooted shrubs. These are bought bare-rooted from nurseries, this way they will be dormant, but have a more extensive root system than those grown in containers. They should be planted as soon as you can so they spend the minimum time out of the ground. This applies in particular to ornamental cultivars which seem to be less tolerant than most.
Tip. Use an old pair of tights as a tree tie. They’re strong, don’t rot, and are soft and cheap. Tie around the tree and stake in a figure of 8 so that the tree trunk doesn’t rub against the stake.
If you can’t plant them straight away, then “heel them in”. This means you cover the roots with soil in a temporary position so that they don’t rot or dry out. Don’t be tempted to leave them in the bag or other wrapping even for a short time. If you haven’t space to put them in the soil, then “planting” them in sharp sand (a couple of quid from a builders merchant for a 40kg bag) will do nearly as well (dries out quicker than soil). You could even do this in a bucket or other container as long as there are drainage holes in the bottom so the roots don’t sit in water.
Why bother with the garden in February?
Why not wait until it is warmer and more pleasant and plant out of containers?
- Bare-rooted trees and shrubs are cheaper, as little as half the price for trees and cheaper than this for shrubs though the range of available shrubs is smaller, so you can either save money or spend the same and get a much bigger plant.
- Planting now means that they get off to the best possible start in the spring. As soon as the plants wake up and start putting their roots out, they’re already in your soil rather than in a pot that will then be planted in the soil later, one less jolt to the system.
If you found February garden jobs – top tips to prepare for spring helpful, you’ll find lots more seasonal gardening advice on our Gardening channel.Tags: February, seasonal gardening jobs Last modified: February 10, 2023