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Gardener's Diary            February

Gardener`s Diary is a regular feature of run by Rosemary Martin, who is semi retired.  She says anyone can enjoy gardening whether they have a large or small garden, can`t tell a dandelion from a daisy, or are aged 9 or 90… Here you will be able to see what jobs you should be doing in the garden month by month, get ideas for spectacular seasonal planting schemes, read previews on new plants and products, find out where to buy them, and get up-to-date news of forthcoming events and places to visit. 

For those of you that have never dabbled in the "black art" of gardening you will first need to get some basic knowledge from a good gardening book. You will find some within this article as examples...


But first an introduction from Rosemary...

I have been gardening now for about thirty years, long enough for my husband to know that it`s wise to bury his head in a newspaper when I get the secateurs out...  I don`t have a favourite style of gardening, traditional is nice but I also think the modern trends work well. Plants in my garden have to be resilient as they get moved around frequently, and my husband has been heard  to mutter  “I don`t remember that tree being there this morning..”

Hobbies have come and gone over the years but only gardening has endured, and now in retirement this column adds a new dimension to the hobby, 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




Tenth edition  - February 2002

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...

The garden centres and DIY stores are full of the new season`s seeds for those of you who haven`t already ordered them from catalogues. I usually order some seeds from the catalogues and leave the rest until January and February when I can have a trip out to the garden centre. I went to B & Q for some paint and was amazed at their new selection of flower and vegetable seeds. There are some innovative lines such as childrens starter kits containing large seeds in bright attention-grabbing packaging, and a yellow garden kit comprising three different coloured yellow ceramic pots with three types of miniature daffodils to plant in the compost that`s provided.. and I particularly liked the "sow direct" range of annual seeds that comes in round cartons that you just sprinkle in the garden following the directions. There are four colour ranges : Sunrise Mix comprising reds, oranges and yellows, Pot Pourri Mix, comprising pinks and purples, Spring Green Mix comprising whites and greens and finally Moody Blues Mix comprising blue seeds. All priced at 2.98 and excellent for people with a small patch that needs some summer colour, or for encouraging children to start gardening, or for an Easter or birthday present ...  I also  noticed a herb garden kit comprising seeds of Basil, Chives, Mint and Parsley, complete with pots, compost and drip tray. Ideal for people living in flats to grow their own herbs on the kitchen windowsill.. Oh it`s all changed since my day! 

Seed sowing tips:  

  • Very 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 years 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..

Well we`ve had some harsh and enduring frosts during the last few weeks, which have blackened a lot of plants and shrubs in the garden, but don`t hasten to chop them down as they will more than likely regenerate. The recent strong winds blew all the leaves from nearby gardens into our garden, so I need to have another clearing up session. The trouble is we had a break-in and our garden vac was stolen from our garden shed. However the police have kindly issued us with an alarm which shrieks like a banshee. I don`t think we`ll be troubled again. Garden sheds are fair game for burglers to break into and they can usually gather quite a haul of equipment which will change hands pretty quickly in the local pubs. Like mobile phone theft, it is a modern type of crime, so don`t wait like us to be burgled, get a mobile shed alarm. Ask your local  DIY store if they sell them.

Jobs for the month - February

House plants

Ensure that any house plants on window sills are not too cold or in a draught. At the same time ensure that they have adequate humidity, as 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 the lawn is waterlogged 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 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 soak in very quickly. 

Shrub borders and roses

Turn over the borders with a fork to freshen them up and let air in - as the earth will have become compacted over winter - taking out any weeds at the same time. Cut out any dead or twiggy wood from rose bushes and shrubs. Prune any shrubs and early summer and later flowering clematis hybrids and 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.


Sow summer bedding plants and tomatoes. Plants that you have stored over winter such as pelargoniums, (geraniums) fuchsias and tuberous begonias can now be started into growth. Keep some gentle heat on in the greenhouse during the nights as frosts will still quickly kill your new seedlings. I usually start seeds off in the house and transfer them to the conservatory until May when it is safe to put them in my unheated greenhouse. They will tend to get leggy and lean towards the light, so will need turning every so often..


Seeds can be sown this month for Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks and lettuce to name a few. If the weather is OK you can sow broad beans in the open. You don`t need a vegetable garden or allotment to enjoy home grown vegetables as they can be grown in amongst the flowers. In fact it helps to keep the aphids and carrot fly away if you plant vegetables amongst flowers such as marigolds, and I think it looks really nice to see vegetables and salad stuff dotted around the borders. Later on you could put a small wigwam of runner beans in.


Before growth starts, do any late pruning of young plum trees according to your book, give them some fertiliser and protect blossom from frost with horticultural fleece.

Trees and shrubs

If the ground is not frozen you can plant ornamental trees and shrubs.  If there are any dead or diseased branches or twigs on new or existing trees, cut them out. Give a top dressing with a  fertilizer and mulch. Check that the supports and ties for young trees are secure but not too tight, and won`t rub against the trunk. (The trees in my garden seem to have healed themselves thankfully after I neglected to do this job last year. It is amazing how quickly young tree trunks thicken and grow into their ties. 

Water gardens  

Continue to make sure that any pond ice has holes in to enable the fish to get oxygen. If the weather is suitable for you to do a pond `spring clean` then take care not to disturb any 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 being 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 and bread, 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 !


Some web sites of interest to gardeners:    


For ideas:-


Thompson and Morgan: a growing resource for gardeners worldwide. The site includes the international online seed catalogues, the young plants catalogue (UK only), the wholesale seeds catalogue, together with the award winning Germination Times and a host of other useful information.



For inspiration:-


Gardening 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.



For vision:-


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


For  indulgence:- 






Have a look at previous editions of Gardener`s Diary




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