Oak Leaf Gardening Monthly Cuttings
Newsletter 21 - February 2013
What to do now

Ornamental plants

  • Firm in plants which have been lifted by frost or strong winds.
  • Brush the bulk of snow fall off conifers, evergreen shrubs and hedges so they don’t splay, but leave a small layer of snow in place as it can help to insulate the plant against harsh temperatures.
  • Many shrubs can be pruned now, including roses, dogwoods, elders, buddleias, hydrangeas, cotinus, willows, mahonias and paulownias. Summer flowering clematis plants can also be cut back.
  • Deadhead and generally tidy up winter bedding, pots and hanging baskets.
  • Water and top dress containers which are out all year.
  • It’s still too early to get your pots of spring bedding plants out, but you can start to harden them off towards the end of the month if it’s mild.
  • Pot up dahlias and lilies to start them off in your greenhouse.
  • Sow tuberous begonias, impatiens (busy Lizzies), osteospermums, pelargoniums, cannas and sweet peas under cover.
  • Take root cuttings from perennials with suitable (fleshy) roots.
  • Lift, divide and replant clumps of snowdrops.
  • If the weather’s bad outside, look through catalogues and order your plug plants.
Fruit and veg
  • Warm up areas of soil where you want to plant early crops by covering them with polythene sheeting, cloches or fleece.
  • Sow very early crops such as carrots, broad beans, hardy peas and parsnips under horticultural fleece.
  • Chit early seed potatoes ready to plant them out at the end of next month.
  • Plant soft fruit bushes, bare-rooted fruit trees and summer-fruiting raspberry canes.
  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries and plant new canes this month or early March.
  • Prune the side shoots on trained gooseberries back to 2 or 3 buds.
  • If you have a greenhouse you can sow French beans, baby carrots, beetroot, radish and spinach in the borders or in deep troughs. Lettuces (and other salad leaves), leeks, onions, early brassicas (eg spring cabbages), peas, broad beans, and early new potatoes can be sown in pots. You can start to sow tomatoes, aubergines and cucumbers in heated propagators for early crops.
General tasks
  • Try to keep off the lawn as much as possible. If necessary, put down a temporary path over frequently used areas.
  • If the weather’s mild towards the end of the month you can start to prepare ground for sowing/turfing a new lawn.
  • Finish up any winter digging, so long as the soil isn’t waterlogged or frozen.
  • Keep your greenhouse well ventilated on milder days and keep watering to a minimum.
  • Now’s a good time to design and create new beds and borders, ready for spring planting. It’s also an opportunity to do hard landscaping jobs or add a water feature to your garden.
Erica carnea 'Loughrigg'Plant of the month

Erica carnea 'Loughrigg', is smothered in pretty, pink, bell-shaped flowers from late winter through spring. The rest of the year its evergreen foliage forms a thick mat which provides great groundcover. Ideal for planting under deciduous trees to add winter interest. The RHS have given it their Award of Garden Merit. Find out more...

Problem of the monthGreenhouse mealy bugs

Greenhouse mealybugs infest plants in warm and dry environments, so house plants or plants in heated greenhouses can be attacked at any time of year. The tiny, woodlouse-like insects produce white threads to cover themselves, and it's often these masses which you'll notice first. Insecticides can be used but simply pruning out affected areas or removing them with a brush is usually enough to get rid of the colonies. Find out more...

In the news

Blooming Britain!

The RHS Britain in Bloom campaign has launched its theme for 2013: Edible Britain. They hope to see Britain's streets lined with herbs and vegetables! The voluntary campaign is growing in popularity, with a 30% increase in sign ups this year. The 80 finalists for the 2013 competition will be judged in July/August and the winners announced in October.

Gardening TV and books

At 9pm tonight (1st February) Monty Don is starting his new BBC series on French Gardens. This three part series will visit France's most famous gardens, look at the combination of flowers and food in 'potager' gardens and investigate how art movements have influenced French gardening.

For the gardening bookworms, Dr Hessayon will bring out his latest book in April, focussing on indoor gardening and the art of 'roomscaping' - landscaping our interior spaces with plants and flowers in the same way we do our gardens.

Thanet Earth

Kent's Thanet Earth, an environmentally friendly, hydroponic salad producer, has opened its fourth glasshouse. The 8 hectare, £17m installation is expected to produce its first yield of tomatoes in time for Easter.

Rose grower Peter Beales dies

Norfolk rose grower and recipient of the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour Peter Beales has died aged 76. As one of the world's leading rose growers he won 19 gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and designed the Queen's rose for her diamond jubilee.


Fun veg!

The cold and wet of February isn't ideal for gardening, so why not put your feet up with a warm cuppa and plan your veg patch for next year? There's a huge variety of produce seeds available both in the shops and online. But we feel that some veg are just a little more fun than others; which can be particularly useful if you're gardening with children or are simply trying to get them to eat their five a day!

These are our pick of the vegetables which are a little more fun and out of the ordinary:

  • Pea seedsAsparagus Pacific Purple - A deep purple coloured asparagus which produces tender and sweet stems. Steam the stems rather than boiling them to retain the colour after cooking.
  • Carrot Yellowstone - In a change from the usual orange colour these carrots are bright yellow. Tell the kids that they're radioactive and people who eat them have been known to get super powers as a result!
  • Celery Giant Red - Even celery can't escape the colour-changing trend from vegetable growers! These are pink at the base fading to dark red and then green. Often used as a flavouring for soups, they'd certainly brighten up a cheese board.
  • Chilli pepper F1 Vampire - With its fang shaped fruits this aptly named chilli is perfect if you want to go a bit gothic in the greenhouse! The chillis start off black and ripen to blood red.
  • Courgette Tondo di Piacenza - Not all courgettes are cylindrical; this one forms dark green, perfectly spherical fruits.
  • Dwarf French Bean Borlotto Firetongue - This bean produces long pods which are mottled with dark pink and cream. The beans, which can be used fresh or dried, are ivory with black markings, looking a little like bird eggs.
  • Flowersprout Petit Posy - This is a pretty cross between kale and Brussels Sprouts; imagine the shape of a sprout with the colours and frills of kale and you'll get the idea. They taste like spring greens and would make an unusual addition to Christmas dinner.
  • Lettuce Red Iceberg - Iceberg lettuce is always a favourite, but this variety has leaves which are coloured in green and red to jazz your salad up a bit.
  • Mushroom Lion's Mane - If you fancy growing mushrooms (you'll need to drill holes in a freshly cut log and insert mushroom plugs into them) then Lion's Mane is a great one to try with its 'mane' of cascading white spines. It has a flavour similar to lobster when cooked.
  • Parsley Eagle - As well as giving you the expected crop of parsley, Eagle also has thick tap roots which can be harvested in the autumn and add a lovely parsley flavour to soups or stews. Atika and Orbis are similar varieties of root parsley.
  • Pea Tom Thumb - As the name suggests this is a miniature pea which is easy to grow in containers and doesn't need to be staked. The tiny peas have a lovely sweet flavour. Perfect for children to grow.
  • Pumpkin Atlantic Giant - If you're looking for a huge pumpkin for Halloween carving then this is the one for you, just make sure you have a knife big enough!
  • Tomato Hundreds and Thousands - If you like a few (or a thousand!) tomatoes in your salads then this plant is ideal. It's perfect for containers and hanging baskets, producing cascades of small, sweet tomatoes throughout the summer.

Image by Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


What's on this month

Get rid of the winter blues at some of this month's best garden events:

  • 2nd to 10th February - Snowdrop Days, Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea, London.
  • 6th February - Rose Pruning Demonstration, RHS Rosemoor, Torrington, Devon.
  • 7th February - Shaping History; The Garden At Leven Hall Talk, University of Oxford Botanic Garden, Oxford.
  • 16th & 17th February - Guided Snowdrop Walk, Ness Botanic Gardens, Neston, South Wirral.
  • 19th & 20th February - RHS London Plant & Design Show, RHS Horticultural Halls, Westminster, London.
  • 21st February - Hardy Plants That Deliver Value Talk, University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Stoke Bishop, Bristol.
  • 21st February - Growing Veg In Containers Workshop, RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
  • 23rd February - Willow Weaving: Obelisks With Sculptural Tops Workshop, Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire.