Unbelievable…. We have had a dusting of snow here in the Netherlands and the temperature has dropped into freezing figures. Hopefully we will still be able to get our skates out and have a week of skating fun. Most Dutch people can skate really well and will venture out with the whole family at the weekends. Tennis courts get flooded and organizers get really very excited about preparing the ice rinks. Volunteers set up stalls to supply the hungry and thirsty, offering a whole range of food and drinks such as hot chocolate with whipped cream, Gluhwein(mulled wine), strong coffee with some kind of alcoholic shot in it, to make you brave the ice, home made apple cake and good old traditional thick pea soup. Music is blasting from loudspeakers to satisfy the younger generation….. always turns into a wonderful party!!!!
Garden wise it is then best to do as little as possible even though it has been rather tempting to get out with bucket and spade! That is why I leave mine untouched until the end of March actually… the main reason being, I only have a flower garden and am not into growing vegetables yet. For the vegetable gardeners amongst us there will be plenty of odd jobs to get started on: preparing the veggie plots for seeding, growing and harvesting. I do try to add some useful tips for you on this topic.
Best advice is to do as little as possible and really wait until mid March before getting stuck in again… instead buy some good garden magazines to tickle yourself with, or even venture out to a local ice rink and get cracking on your skating skills!!!
Most important job to do immediately if you have frost in your area is to cover all the plants outside standing in pots!!! With thick bubble wrap… leaving open space at the tops so air can get in!!! and fingers crossed they survive. And give the birds some extra food this month.
Now for the true die hards!
■ Protect shrubs from snow damage by shaking it off the plants and shoring them up with soil around the stems.
■ Choose a warmer day to hoe beds, to clear any weeds and break up the soil’s surface.
■ Have a go at sowing annual seeds such as pansies, antirrhinum and impatiens in a greenhouse or on a windowsill. Viola ‘Allspice Mixed’ is very fragrant.
■ Prune your roses. Be brave: roses are hardy and can withstand a good haircut! Cut stems back by half to two-thirds. Climbers should be cut back to a framework and stems that have flowered cut out from ramblers. This should give you better blooms and tidier bushes.
■ Take care of indoor plants. If you notice the roots are beginning to come through the base, repot the plant in a slightly larger planter for a fresh new look. If not, just top up the container with compost to refresh it.
■ Dig in over-wintered green manures ready for sowing and planting
■ Prune weak growth from early summer-flowering clematis and cut late-flowering clematis back to 15-30cm from the ground
■ Clear and mulch round the base of fruit trees
■ Sprout potato tubers by setting them out in egg boxes in a cool but
frost-free position in good light
■ Put cloches over strawberries to encourage early fruiting. Ventilate on warm, sunny days to allow insects to pollinate the flowers.
■ Tuck straw around rhubarb crowns and cover with a forcing jar for early stems.
■ In fine weather continue to dig over the vegetable garden, adding compost or manure where required.
■ Sow cauliflower and summer cabbage seeds.
■ Cut autumn-fruiting raspberries back to ground level.
■ The first February after planting, all types of clematis should be pruned back to the lowest one or two buds on each stem. This will encourage the young plant to produce plenty of bushy growth.
■ Cut back ivy on walls before birds start nesting. Be ruthless – it will look better for a hard pruning.
■ Pruning of apples, pears, currants and gooseberries should be completed by the end of February. Cut away and burn all dead, damaged and diseased wood.
■ Do the final pruning of wisteria, cutting back laterals and side shoots to within two or three buds of the main stem. Wear gloves and protect your face – there are thorn-like protrusions on the new growth.
■ The brightly coloured stems of salix and cornus should be cut back to between 5-15cm from the ground to ensure more colourful stems next year.
■ Plant hardy climbers 50cm away from the wall if soil is not waterlogged.
■ In dry weather, plant lily bulbs in well-drained soil enriched with rotted organic matter, in a sunny spot ideally shaded by plants such as rosemary or lavender. If lily beetle is a problem in your area, plant bulbs in pots and keep them undercover.
■ Sow parsley in mild weather.
■ Check plant supports and do any repairs before plants start growing.
JOBS WHICH YOU NEED TO REGULARLY DURING WINTER MONTHS ARE TO KEEP ALL PATHS CLEAN AND TIDY AND FREE OF FALLEN LEAVES.
Wishing you all a happy snug final wintry valentine’s month…. C