Garden Cuttings: Toby Buckland's gardening advice for Febraury

PUBLISHED: 11:56 29 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:56 29 January 2015

Toby gets to work this month chopping back vegetation

Toby gets to work this month chopping back vegetation

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Toby Buckland delivers some sound practical and seasonal advice

It’s not too early to trim back tatty tops of woody herbs like lavenderIt’s not too early to trim back tatty tops of woody herbs like lavender

Hello! Here in Devon those sunny days in February when there’s finally some proper warmth in those rays isn’t just a balm for winter-weary souls, it’s the signal for plants to start stirring.

If it’s very mild perennials can be up and out of the blocks early, meaning it’s time to stock up on the wildlife-friendly slug pellets! It’s also time to choose your favourite seeds before garden centres sell out. I always make a beeline for the useful plants, sweet peas for scent and for picking, honesty to dry for autumn arrangements and of course, vegetables like quick cut-and-come-again salad leaves, peas and cherry tomatoes.

And if you do one thing this month make it mulching borders with compost. The dark colour makes a perfect backdrop for bulbs. You never regret it!

Installing a water-butt can help giving you a supply of acidic rainwaterInstalling a water-butt can help giving you a supply of acidic rainwater

What to do now

On crisp winter days, get out into the borders and clear away the last of last year’s perennials to give spring bulbs a chance to shine. In the milder parts of the South West it’s not too early to trim back tatty tops of woody herbs like rosemary, sage and lavender, provided you don’t cut into the leafless wood at the base, trim about an inch above where the leafy growth starts.

Bud drop on rhododendrons, camellia and azaleas at this time of year is a sign of lack of water when buds were forming last summer, commonplace when plants are grown in pots.

Installing a water-butt can help giving you a supply of acidic rainwater that these ericaceous plants love. Collected water is also good for orchids and carnivorous plants. Yellowing leaves is usually a sign of iron deficiency, which you can alleviate by watering with sequestered iron during the growing season. Mulch rhubarb now – a hungry feeder which will repay you with juicy stalks for pies and crumbles. In cold weather, don’t worry if rhubarb appears to have died, they’re extremely hardy but will emerge later when it warms up.

Start sowing broad beans now for a delicious crop later in the yearStart sowing broad beans now for a delicious crop later in the year

Take the secateurs to wisteria and summer-flowering viticella clematis now, wisteria by cutting back the stubs of the summer shoots to two or three buds and clematis to one foot, it keeps the plants producing flowers where you want them - low down - and stops wisteria turning into an unruly mess.

This month at the Plant Centre I’m explaining how to get your garden into gear for spring on 10 and 11 February. I’ll be demonstrating how to sow and plant spuds and onions, as well as what to do now for a garden to make you proud this summer. Tickets cost £7.50, but numbers are limited, so booking is essential on 01626 891133.

Plant of the month

Broad beans

Not quite a harvest yet, but one to get sowing as the earlier you do the earlier they produce pods and the less likelihood they’ll fall prey to the dreaded black bean aphid, a nasty fat sap-sucking creature before you get to eat them.

Varieties come and go but my all-time favourites are still ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ and ‘Sutton’ for their reliability in the cold and their tangy flavour. Sown in 9cm pots and kept in a cold frame they’ll be big enough to plant next month and ready for picking by early summer – but just watch out for mice that love the seeds! I like to eat them whole before the beans inside show through the walls of the pods, served with ketchup and bacon. Delicious!

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