Now is the time to start sowing the first of the early crops

Posted on: 10th February, 2014

Category: Home & Garden

Contributor: West Cork People

by John Hosford 086-4426450 www.facebook.com/TheWeekEndGardenCentre

February is the beginning of the planting season for a new year and a thriving vegetable garden can be set in to motion this month. First things first — continue preparing vegetable beds and raised beds for vegetable sowing and planting. Add farmyard manure or well-decomposed compost or Gee-up and add lime if your soil is deficient.

Early sowings of vegetables and herbs may be made where consistent heat is available such as from a thermostatically controlled propagator or an electric heater. Be careful of low temperatures, which are fatal in early sowings. An electric greenhouse heater, which is thermostatically controlled can be invaluable at this time of the year.

Seed sowing should be done in new or thoroughly clean pots or seed trays, using fresh compost. Once the seed has been sown, the tray or pot is then covered with polythene and newspaper. As soon as seedlings appear, the polythene and newspaper should be removed. The emerging seedlings will become drawn, spindly and of little value if you allow the polythene and newspaper to remain on after germination. Keep the trays in good light once the seedlings have emerged. Keep moist but not excessively wet, using a watering can, which will produce a fine spray over the young seedlings. If the weather is cold, then use lukewarm water. It’s important to water in the earlier part of the day to minimise excessive humidity going into the night. Seedlings are transplanted carefully into pots or trays once two true leaves have formed. Use a sharp pencil or meat scewer when transplanting the seedlings, handling them by the leaves and not the stems and watering after transplanting.

 

Early Colour in the Garden

Many delightful early shrubs will flower during February, many of which are also deliciously fragrant. There are a number of recommended shrubs for early colour.

Erica carnea ‘Springwood White’ (heather) is a hardy shrub flowering from November to early May. Plant it in groups of three, five, seven or nine, adding moss peat or BrownGold at planting time. Trim faded flowers after blooming using a sharp secateurs or shears.

Daphne bholua’Jacqueline Postill’ is one of the very best early flowering shrubs, filling the garden with several weeks of its fragrant flowers which fill the early spring air with its delicious fragrance. This Daphne remains evergreen in mild winters and if you visit the Fota Arboretum (near Cobh), you will see it in flower at this time of the year. Fota Arboretum is accessible by road or by rail from Cork (Kent Station) or Cobh station.

Viburnumx bodnantense ‘Dawn’, which is sweetly scented and grows to a height of 2m (6-7 feet), will flower continuously from November to May on its bare branches, its deep rose red buds opening to pure white with pink tints.

Hamamellis (witch hazel) is an early flowering large shrub with sweetly scented flowers in sulphur yellow, coppery orange and bronzy red. Hamamellis will also put on a rich display of very dramatic autumn colour. Hamamellis like acid soil and a sheltered position and should be planted at five metres apart.

 

Elsewhere in the garden

Continue planting of hedging and shelter trees where soil and weather conditions permit. Griselinia and Box hedging is planted at 45cm apart. Get rid of competing vegetation around established hedging, especially scutch grass. Dormant hedging such as beech, white thorn or blackthorn can be cleaned up while still dormant by applying Round-Up on a calm, dry day.

In the fruit garden mulch currants, raspberries, gooseberries and loganberries with a generous dressing of well composted farmyard or stable manure. Continue winter pruning of gooseberries, currants, apples and pears. Check stakes and ties after the winter storms and replace where necessary.

When weather conditions permit, plant roses, pruning hybrid tea and floribunda roses.

Keep a vigilant eye on emerging perennials and bulbs and protect from slug damage.

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