Gardening Tips

Doing your prep – Growhow tips for February


Here we are on the brink of another thrilling spring garden season! Shakespeare’s Henry V had the words for it: “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start.

The game’s afoot..” But are we REALLY ready? This week’s tips are mostly about prepping for the manic deluge of horticultural tasks about to hit us – let’s ready the veg beds, clean and sharpen the tools, and generally brace ourselves…

There has been a great deal written about the no-dig method of veg growing, and it certainly has its ardent supporters, led by Charles Dowding. The idea is that you are not disrupting all the micro-fungi and other organisms in the soil that are so vital for plant roots. Another plus point is that you’re not wrecking your back while you haul heavy clay around, like they always did in the old days!

For the no-dig method to work, you do need a really good amount of organic matter to hand – leaf mould, well-rotted manure, bagged peat-free compost or the homemade variety. You initially add at least 15 cm (6″) of this material as a mulch on your veg beds in the winter, and in subsequent years, you add another 5 cm (2″). You let the worms etc. come up and digest it all. 

Fork over the veg beds about a week before you want to start using them for this season’s crops

About a week before you want to use the bed, fork it over lightly and then rake the surface to a fine tilth (I love that word!) before you start sowing and planting. I only grow veg these days in raised beds (or pots) and this is by far the best method for me of preparing the soil for the coming season. If you want to know more about no-dig gardening, have a look at the garden-organic site – link is at the end.

We rely on our garden tools so much, but how much love do we actually give them? Like us, they should be sharp and shiny at all times, and also like us, they often need a bit of help to achieve that state of grace!

I could not garden without my beloved border spade which gets used for all sorts of random things besides digging – flattening, edging, hoeing, raking, carrying, chopping…. Not much of any of that activity happening at the moment, though, so I shall fill a bucket with water, and soak the blade in it.  Using a scrubbing brush I’ll remove mud and any sticky streaks etc. Once it’s drained and dried with an old cloth, I shall then spend a few minutes sharpening up the blade with a garden sharpener.

Clean up your trusty spades ready for the new season

Lastly, it will get a very light coating of thin furniture oil on both the metal and wooden bits.  A quick wipe-down with a cloth will remove any excess oil, and then my spade can rest gleamingly ready for action on its hook in the shed till it’s needed again.  

If I can find the time, I will do the same with my trusty trowels, hand-forks etc., and give my secateurs a clean and a sharpen-up too. 

While we’re polishing our halos cleaning our garden tools, how about cleaning off all the pots and trays that we’ll be using for all our sowing and potting-on soon? You’ll see that I’m doing in the feature pic this week, so I’m sure you can too!  And collecting and repairing plant supports – perhaps even making some more using bamboo canes or metal rods.  

Just IMAGINE how fabulously smug we are going to feel, when the garden is going like a speeding train in a couple of months time, and we can reach for a sharpened tool, a clean pot or the perfect plant support whenever we need one!

  • Hard experience has taught me not to leave the old stems on grasses like Miscanthus TOO much later than the end of February – it is nigh-on impossible not to damage the new green shoots while you’re doing it, if they have already started to push through.  Treat Calamagrostis  and Deschampsia the same way, but leave tenderer grasses like Pennisetum until late March or April because the old stems will give the crown protection until the warmer weather arrives.
Miscanthus like this M. ‘Flamingo’ can be trimmed back earlier than other grasses
  • Prune hardy evergreen hedges like privet, yew or cherry laurel now, before spring growth starts and the birds start nesting in earnest. Give them a good mulch of rotted manure or compost while you’re about it.
  • You may recall that I sowed some chillies in January indoors, and some of those seeds are just beginning to come through. But I always keep a few back to sow in February in case the first ones don’t make it. I made a video a short while back on how to do it – the link is at the bottom.
Sowing chillies early in the year
  • I hope you persuaded a youngster to have a go with growing broad beans in jam jars like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago? Once the bean has developed a shoot, it’s time to tip it out of the jar carefully and tuck it into a pot of compost to grow some proper leaves and roots.

Here is the link to my video on how to sow chillies

Here is the link to the no-dig method of gardening.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

2 replies on “Doing your prep – Growhow tips for February”

I’m putting in a plug here for good old hazel bean poles and pea boughs. They are the product of coppicing and can often be bought relatively cheaply from local coppice groups (and not so cheaply from garden centres). This helps keep the ancient craft of coppicing alive and preserves our ancient woodlands (oak & ash standards with a hazel understory) for centuries to come.

Couldn’t agree more, Jill, and thank you for reminding us! Coppiced hazel makes fabulous structural support for peas and beans – and looks so lovely as well. It’s the perfect kind of re-cycling. I’ve actually recently planted my own little hazel coppice among some trees – they are very wee yet, but I’m excited about what they’ll be in a few years……All the best, Elaine

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