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Gardening Tips

With a spring in our step! Early February Grow-how


Brilliant! We’ve made it to February! And it really won’t be long now before the early spring flowers will be everywhere to cheer us through these dark times. It’s still pretty quiet in the garden, but we can certainly start getting the beds ready, begin rose-pruning, and sow some broad beans…………………

Can you dig it?

There has been a great deal written about the no-dig method of veg growing, and it certainly has its ardent supporters, Charles Dowding for one. 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.

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.

Raised beds can make veg growing a bit easier

But there are still thousands of traditional gardeners out there who dig their veg plot over thoroughly every year and also get fabulous results. Digging does aerate, warm and drain the soil; this helps to wake up the active bacteria which break down organic material. So while you dig, be sure to incorporate your compost or composted manure as you go.

As lovely as an English rose….

How lucky are we that David Austin had a brilliant idea back in 1969 to combine the sumptuousness and scent of old-fashioned once-flowering roses with the vigour, disease-resistance and staying power of modern hybrids, and create the glory of English roses! His company brings out a few more beauties each year, and I don’t think there is a dud amongst them!

I grow a lot of them among all sorts of other kinds of roses (floribunda, Hybrid Perpetual, ‘shrub’ etc. ) and almost all of them get the same pruning treatment (keeps it simple, saves time…..) at this time of year:

R. ‘Boscobel’ – An English rose to die for
  1. I take out any crossing, broken, dead or diseased stems.

2. I take out one or two of the oldest stems right at the base, particularly if they are growing up through the middle of the shrub – I try to keep the centre as open as I can.

3. I cut back everything else by about a third to a half

4. Finally, I sprinkle some high-potash fertiliser round the base and cover it with a mulch of good compost. And the job’s a good ‘un – move on to the next one….

One of the exceptions to this method is if I’ve remembered that I’m dealing with a modern Hybrid Tea rose such as ‘Lynda Bellingham’ or ‘Chandos Beauty’, because they, unlike English or shrub roses, ONLY flower on the current season’s growth, and should thus be pruned much harder in February or March.

As for Rugosa roses, they get rather more brutal treatment, I’m afraid! Check out the link at the bottom to find out what happens to those!

Gardening shorts

  • If you grow spring bulbs in grass as in the feature photo, tidying around them carefully is a great idea as they emerge. Soggy leaf-litter or mulch can encourage the shoots to rot off, the flowers will look prettier when they open – and it also make them easier to see, so you don’t tread on them!
Give your early spring beauties a chance to shine……..
  • What about that fabulous photo of a frosted border in Louise’s column last weekend – such a ringing endorsement of the idea to leave all the dead stuff on your borders until the end of winter! But can I just mention that hard experience has taught me not to leave the old stems on grasses like Miscanthus TOO much later – 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.
Miscanthus sinensis ‘China’
Cut down the old stems of Miscanthus like this lovely M. ‘China’ before the new green shoots push through
  • Time to start some broad beans off – You might sow these outside once the ground has warmed a little but I prefer to start them off inside. Tuck each seed on its edge 5 cm (2″) down into deep pots, cardboard tubes, or root trainers of peat-free compost. Water and leave in a cool frost-free place (cold windowsill is fine). After germination, stand them outside during the day, but bring them in at night for a few days, before planting them outside.
Caroline taking instruction on her broad bean sowing

Here’s where I told you what we do with our rugosa roses

This is the link to the site that tells you more about no-dig gardening

NB: If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning..

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 “With a spring in our step! Early February Grow-how”

Next time I prune anything I shall follow your example and, as well as secateurs, load up with fertiliser and mulch. Usually I just go round and prune with the intention of feeding afterwards, but often rain, thirst or tiredness occurs before I complete the task.
I had the opportunity of being part of the virtual audience of Gardeners’ Question Time recently and, if any of your readers are interested particpating, the link can be found here:

Hello Linda, Laura here and how exciting to hear that your question may be aired on GQT this Friday, we must all listen in! Caroline once kindly bought me tickets to GQT annual summer party, without first telling that it was being held at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens and required me to make a 700 mile round trip…. but actually it was worth it as we had a smashing day and, like you, I got the chance to put a question to the panel (why can’t I grow meconopsis in Sussex as well as my sister can in the highlands when I am a so much better gardener ?).
Funnily enough the question you have asked the team is a wonderful link to our blog topic next Saturday in which we are putting forward our suggestions for seeds for people to try this year.
Hope your question gets aired – I can’t wait to find out what they suggest! Best wishes, Laura

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