Gardening Tips

Potting on the plugs – Gardening tips for February


Yes, yes, yes!  A walk round the garden in early February may not give you the flamboyance of full-on spring, but oh boy! It’s so heartening to see the rosy noses of peony buds breaking through and bright aconites studding the ground…. You feel that familiar frisson of anticipation for the coming garden season.

Coming into the busy time now for sure, so let’s get going with making sure the pots are looking good, priming the seed potatoes and  potting on some spring bedding, amongst other things…

Polyanthus for Easter anyone?

Our regular readers may remember that back in October, I bought some tiny little (and very cheap!) plugs of spring bedding plants. I wonder if you did too?  I tucked mine into modules of compost and grew them on in a cool, bright frost-free spot.  

I got a selection of polyanthus, violas and sweet Williams, and they have all responded well to this treatment.  Woo-be-dooo!  I now have a sturdy well-rooted little plant in each module –  time to move them to bigger pots, before their final move into their ‘display’ positions for Easter gorgeousness. 

Time to move these babies out of their modules and into something bigger….

It’s a fairly straightforward process:

  1. Water the plants in their modules.

2. Prepare some slightly bigger (recycled) pots by filling them to halfway with peat-free compost (I always mix in a little vermiculite or grit to keep the compost open). 

3. Tip each plant into your hand and place it into a pot.  If the roots have already started going round and round, tease them out and loosen them a little.

4. Tuck more compost around the plant until it is firmly anchored.

5. Water each pot, and put all the pots in a cool sheltered place to become big healthy plants that will carry a fabulous bunch of blooms for you from March to May.

I made a little video of this process – link is at the bottom.

Glamming up the pots

Have you got shrubs growing in pots, as I have? Before the frantic spring season really gets underway, why not give them some TLC? They’ll look soooooo much better, and you can leave them to quietly do their thing when every other plant in the garden is clamouring for your attention.  Using containers is such a good way of achieving flexibility with your plant-positioning as well as growing things that aren’t suited to your soil, such as Pieris which is an acid-lover, and would loathe my chalky earth.  

There may be weeds growing around the plant competing for water and nutrients, or fallen leaves and exhausted compost.

Shrubs in pots - top dressing
Tidy up your permanent planting in pots to keep them smiling

So mix some fresh appropriate compost in a trug or bucket with some slow-release fertiliser granules.  Then scrape off the top 2 inches or so of the soil in the pot with a trowel, and replace it with your compost mix.  Spread it out, leaving room at the top of the pot for ease of watering.  I like to finish off with a layer of grit/gravel for a neat finish which will also help to retain moisture.  Your shrub will reward you by perking up hugely in the next few weeks, I bet you!

Give your potted shrubs some TLC

Chitting the spuds

You can make a worthwhile start in the veg patch, by warming up the soil. Covering the ground with cloches and/or fleece now will make it less likely to get waterlogged, as well as being a more appealing environment for your crops when you start sowing and planting soon.

If you’re going to grow potatoes, now is the time to choose your varieties online or at a garden store. Don’t be tempted to ‘grow on’ supermarket potatoes – only seed-potatoes are guaranteed virus-free.

Unless you have got acres to fill, I would suggest not choosing the varieties that are usually so cheap in the shops; go for something a bit different and much less available.

Not award-winning in the looks department and very rarely in the shops but we grow these brilliant waxy salad potatoes – ‘Pink Fir Apple’

Once you’ve got your seed-potatoes, make the family some huge omelettes, because you need the egg-boxes. Put your potatoes in the boxes, with the largest number of ‘eyes’ (tiny little sprouts in the potato-skin) at the top. Put the boxes in a bright, frost-free place and in the next six weeks or so, the tubers will develop good, strong, stumpy shoots which will give them a super head start when you plant them outside at Easter.

Chitting potatoes
Seed potatoes will develop nice stubby shoots (‘chits’) before they’re planted in the soil

Gardening shorts

  • I have some old clumps of Hemerocallis (daylilies) and hardy geraniums (cranesbills) that need lifting and dividing to rejuvenate them. February is a good time to do this – I’ll just chop down into them with a spade and replant the outside bits, as long as the ground isn’t frozen.
Chopping down into an old clump of hardy geraniums to rejuvenate them
  • My poor sister Laura in West Sussex has lost a lot of plants this winter due to periods of extreme cold. I hope she has remembered that one way to raise the temperature inside a greenhouse by a couple of degrees is to leave buckets of water inside it, which will warm up a little on a bright day and then act like weak storage heaters during the night. Might just save a plant or two when the degrees start to plummet into minuses again.
  • Cut Buddleia, Cornus (dogwoods), willows and multi-stemmed hazels hard back this month. The buddleias will flower much better in the summer, and the dogwoods and hazels will develop their bright young stems ready to delight you all over again next winter.
Cutting down the stems of Cornus to keep the plant producing more gloriously-coloured shoots
  • Did you see that utterly wonderful grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Professor Richard Hansen’ in Louise’s Plant of the Month column last week?! If you missed it, check the link at the bottom for Great Plants This Month. But certainly by the end of this month, you really need to have cut all those old stems of a deciduous grass like Miscanthus down to the ground. If you leave it any later, you run a great danger of damaging the new green shoots coming up through the old ones. I’ve made the mistake before of leaving this cutting-back too late, and it’s a horrible feeling knowing you’ve been chopping off some of the fresh shoots!

Here’s the link to the video of potting on plug plants.

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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 “Potting on the plugs – Gardening tips for February”

I have 5 Salix lanata [lantana] round my pond that need pruning. Should I prune them now in February? Will I lose the catkins this year if I do? Or should I leave it till later in the year?

Hi Laura, oooh, your Salix around a pond sound gorgeous! Elaine here. You certainly can pollard these willows every few years, if you really need to, but yes, you would lose all the catkins in the year that you do it. I would say that a much better idea would be to take out any weak, dead or crossing branches in February or early March each year, and leave the rest. Pruning them later in the year risks weakening them, I would say, because they will already have made their big thrust upwards when the sap was really rising earlier on. With this minimal pruning, you won’t ever have to do without those gorgeous catkins and pretty foliage in spring and early summer. Happy gardening!

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