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Gardener's Diary 

                             February 2010

Robin in the snowJanuary! What a cold month it was.. A couple of tender plants were lost in our garden, despite covering them with straw and a wind break, but gardeners are optimistic folk and I'm already planning their replacements.. I do hope that none of you had too much snow or frost damage to your gardens. 

This has to be one of the best times of the year for those of us who like gardening, with the anticipation of Spring and Summer to come.. Each day now gets a little longer and hopefully warmer, and we have it all to look forward to, even if the expectation does outweigh the reality...

If you are already starting work on your veggie patch you might want to read this article about manure! Oyster mushrooms

Thompson & Morgan say that gardeners are now finding mushroom growing a very popular pastime, and have sent me details of their most popular sets here


Petit Posy


They also sent me details of the new vegetable which is a cross between brussels sprouts and kale, called Petit Posy









An introduction from Rosemary Martin...

I have been gardening now as a hobby for about thirty years, but have no formal training..  I don't have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice, but I also think the modern trends work well. 

This column adds a new dimension to my interest in all aspects of horticulture and will hopefully help others find pleasure in this healthy and therapeutic pastime  ...  

Please e-mail me with your garden problems, comments, or ideas for this section of  laterlife, remembering to tell me which country you are from..  

Click here for previous editions of Gardener's Diary..

Jobs for the month - February


House plants

See that any house plants on window cills are not too cold or in a draught. At the same time ensure that they have adequate humidity, because central heating can dry some plants out too much. Don't start feeding them until March. Take out any dead leaves, and wipe glossy leaved plants with a damp cloth to freshen them up.


February is a good month to find out what sort of soil conditions exist below grass level. If your lawn tends to get waterlogged it is compacted; pierce the surface with a fork to a depth of about six inches, and then wiggle the fork backwards and forwards a couple of times. For larger lawns do a section at a time as it is hard work, or use a special aerating tool for the job which can be hired from a tool hire centre. Follow this operation by sprinkling coarse gritty sand over the surface, which will quickly soak in.

Shrub borders and roses

Turn over the borders very lightly with a hoe to freshen them up as the earth will have become compacted over winter - taking out weeds at the same time and avoiding any spring bulbs which may be coming through. If the weather is mild and dry, cut out dead or twiggy wood from rose bushes and shrubs. Prune early summer and later flowering clematis hybrids, ornamental grape vines and wisteria according to instructions in your gardening book.

Paths, walls and fencing

Do any necessary repairs before plant growth starts. Use a weedkiller such as Pathclear to kill grass and weeds on concrete areas for a whole season. Examine the supports for climbing plants and replace if necessary. Pressure clean paths or other ground areas that have become slippery with moss and algae.


Plants that you have stored over winter such as pelargoniums, (geraniums) fuchsias, dahlias and tuberous begonias can now be started into growth. Keep some gentle heat on in the greenhouse during the nights as frosts will still kill plants even under glass. 

Trees and shrubs

If the ground is not frozen you can plant ornamental trees and shrubs. Dead or diseased branches or twigs on new or existing trees, can be cut out. Give a top dressing with a fertilizer and mulch, or manure, which is much better. Check that the supports and ties for young trees are secure but not too tight, and won't rub against the trunk.

Water gardens

pondIf the weather is suitable for you to do a pond 'spring clean' then take care not to disturb mating frogs or toads. If they haven't yet paired off you can put them in a bucket and cover them until it's time to put them back in the pond. The same goes for the fish. We put ours in a plastic plastering bath where they swim around quite happily until they're returned to their pond. If you are re-lining a concrete pond take care to use the correct sealant afterwards, and give it ample time to dry. It`s probably a little early in the year for buying aquatic plants.


Continue feeding the birds with peanuts, seed, sultanas and fruit, not forgetting to put out fresh water for them. Animals that have been asleep through the winter will start to wake up and make their first hunting trips. These include hedgehogs who are good friends of the gardener with their foraging for slugs and beetles. Grey squirrels who have had a very brief hibernation period will now start to go out and about. Birds will start their mating songs and nest building. It`s a splendid time of year for wildlife - a new and busy beginning !

And finally....

Seed sowing tips:

seed sowingVery often people will sow seeds in semi-frozen compost straight from the cold garden shed, but this will only spoil them and even rot them off. So make sure the compost is nice and warm by bringing it into the house to warm it through the day before sowing.

Discard last year's compost onto borders, or for outside tubs, and buy new.

Thoroughly clean all seed trays, labels and plant pots with a garden disinfectant

Resist the temptation to sow seeds too early, as there's just not enough daylight at this time of year for some seeds. Follow the instructions on seed packets..



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Amazon book - Gardens of the National Trust. When the National Trust decided to take on the care of gardens, the aim was that these would be the very best of their kind in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust now has the finest collection of gardens ever assembled under one ownership..

Volunteering with the National Trust

Volunteers are active in all parts of the National Trust, from the new central office in Swindon to the summits of Snowdonia and Divis Mountain near Belfast.

View their latest opportunities, or find out more about the kind of roles and different places you can volunteer:

Still with the National Trust, some of the most visited National Trust properties are now holding regular farmers' and food markets.  Click here for details  and dates.



RHS gardens


Their four flagship gardens not only provide year-round interest and offer a wide range of courses, talks and demonstrations, they also demonstrate the best gardening practices, new techniques and exciting new plants to try in your garden.

Or go to their website for a diary of all other events at:-

Do you take advantage of the DEFRA website for information? I find it a valuable source of information, for up to date legislation, countryside matters and useful information such as plant pests and diseases, which saves me ploughing through all my gardening books, with the knowledge that their information is bang up to date...


Thompson & Morgan LogoThompson & Morgan 


Visit where full information is available on their product varieties and orders can be taken on-line.  Have a look to see what is new, and special seasonal offers


Some places to visit... 



The Eden Project


The living theatre of plants and people
The Eden Project is a gateway into the world of plants and people. A meeting place for all to discover how we depend on plants and how we can help to manage and conserve them for our mutual survival.


Kew Gardens two locations:-

Tel: 020 8332 5655 (24 hr)
Fax: 020 8332 5197

Royal Botanic Gardens

Tel: 01444 894066 (24 hr)
Fax: 01444 894069

Royal Botanic Gardens
Wakehurst Place
Nr Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH17 6TN


The National Botanic Gardens of Scotland comprise:

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotland's Premier Garden

Benmore Botanic Garden, Argyll
Argyll's Magnificent Mountainside Garden

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Borders
Wonderful Woodland Garden

Logan Botanic Garden, Galloway
Scotland's Most Exotic Garden

The National Botanic Garden of WalesThe National Botanic Garden of Wales

The star attraction here is the 91 metre long domed glasshouse, that houses landscapes normally found in the Mediterranean. This would be a super place to visit on a chilly day...




Some websites of interest to gardeners:-


Carry on Gardening - The easier gardening web site from ThriveGardening is an important part of many people's lives. You don't have to give up gardening because of accident or illness, the onset of disability or the problems associated with growing older. The information on their website is designed to provide you with the information to Carry on Gardening.

Carry on Gardening was initiated by the horticultural charity Thrive and is funded by the National Lottery Charities Board.  It brings together information on easy ways of gardening gathered over 23 years by Thrive and research carried out since the early 1970s by Mary Marlborough Centre, Oxford, on tools and equipment for disabled and older people. 



Useful reading:-


"The Yellow Book" contains information of all Gardens of England and Wales open for charity, and can be bought priced ?5 from National Gardens Scheme

National Trust Gardens Handbook is ?6.99 and the new edition is out in May  Telephone 01394 389 950 or see their website

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