Gardening Tips for February: Top Tips from Antony Henn

For me, February is the gateway to spring and is my favourite time of year. It can be a very cold and wintery month but we know that spring is not far away and there are definite signs of life in the garden. It is the feeling of expectation that I love about February. 

The first snowdrops herald the coming season along with hellebores and early flowering shrubs and trees. The first camellia provide a welcome splash of colour this month along with sweetly-scented daphne and mahonia. A well planted border can offer interest and colour all year round no matter what the weather throws at it and including a framework of evergreen and winter interest plants is a great way to achieve this. 

Our Garden on a Roll borders can be planted in February as long as the ground is not frozen, alternatively you can spend the time preparing the soil and doing other tasks to get your garden ready for the new season. Below are some of my top gardening tips for February to aid proactive gardeners looking to get ahead this spring.

1. Pruning and Trimming 

As February is quite a relaxed month in the garden it's a good time to get certain jobs done that would otherwise be neglected. 

Many perennial plants and grasses that you may have left uncut through the autumn/winter for wildlife and structure, will now be looking messy and need cutting back to the ground where new shoots will soon be emerging. Certain shrubs that are looking unruly can be trimmed now to get a headstart tidying them up, although leave the heavier pruning and evergreens until the worst of the hard frosts are behind us. The orange, red and yellow stems of dogwood (cornus) are best left as long as possible, ideally into late February/ early March, to appreciate their glorious colour as long as possible. Replenish your stock of reliable gardening tools and cut stems close to the ground for best chances of repeating the colourful show of stems next autumn/winter.  

2. Soil Preparation 

Your soil and its health is the most important thing to look after in the garden, and its maintenance is therefore one of my favourite gardening tips for February. Many new-build home gardens consist of subsoil mixed with clay and stone with very little humus (nutrient-rich organic matter) or beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Good quality topsoil provides the perfect base for  planting a Garden on a Roll border, or for adding new plants and trees to your garden. Peat free compost can further help to boost your soil’s fertility and structure, making it the perfect base for your new border or plants. For borders, you should aim for a soil depth of at least 30 cm over poor soil. If your existing soil looks impoverished,  forking soil conditioner, organic compost or well-composted stable manure into the existing earth can really help to improve its health. For heavy soils, sharp sand or grit can also be extremely beneficial. Stay determined and  before you know it you’ll have a lovely friable soil ready for plants! 

If your soil’s health shows no sign of improving or is prone to getting waterlogged, why not use a raised bed so the new soil is higher than the existing, making it easier to manage. Our friends at Woodblocx have a range of raised bed kits to suit any garden project.


3. Early Planting

When you can’t get out in the garden why not try growing some veg plants or flowers on the windowsill, conservatory or porch that can be transferred to the garden at a later date, if you wish.

All you need is some pots or a seed tray but anything that will hold seed compost and has drainage will do!

Some good veg plants to try are:

  • Tomatoes: These will need a minimum temperature no less than 10 degrees centigrade to germinate, so may require a heated propagator on the windowsill

  • Chillies: These are a firm favourite but need more heat to start them off in February, preferring a temperature of 25 degrees centigrade to germinate

  • Basil: This herb is quite expensive to buy, so well worth a try growing yourself. As with Chillies, they require a heated propagator to get them going then. In a few weeks when they are growing well, pot them up individually

  • Lettuce: There are many different types of lettuce to choose from but all are easy to grow and can be started off on a warm windowsill indoors. As with all these suggestions, they can only go outside from about April/May when there are likely to be no more frosts

  • Potatoes: Once you grow your own spuds you will be hooked! Start them off on trays in a light cool place until they look as though they are producing shoots (chitting), this speeds up the growing process once you have planted them out in the garden or in large pots in March

If you do not have room in your garden to grow herbs and vegetables, why not try a VegTrug bed on your patio. You can get a lot of food from a small space!

For early flowers, buy pot-grown bulbs now and plant them in containers, or alternatively plant them amongst your existing border plants for extra colour at this time of the year. Dahlias are making a big comeback and are so easy to grow. They produce an abundance of flowers from mid-summer to the first frosts and come in a multitude of colours, making a brilliant cut flower.. You can buy these as dry tubers now, setting them in damp compost in a light place indoors, and before you know it new roots and shoots will start appearing. They can then be planted outside from April/May when all risk of frosts have gone.


4. Garden Maintenance  

Even though it may seem unappealing to go out into the garden on a cold February morning, getting yourself out there is a great way to maintain a positive headspace during the winter months. One of my top tips for gardening in February is to do some weeding. Weeding can be very satisfying, especially knowing that the weeds you put on the compost heap will eventually become great nourishment for your soil.  After weeding, I put a layer of mulch over the surface which not only looks great but also helps to improve the soil’s structure and health as worms bring the mulch down into it. Aerating your lawn with a fork is another good gardening tip for February as it gets air back into the roots and alleviates compaction. 

Remember that bare earth will naturally attract weeds so why not plant a new Garden on a Roll border!  Designed to thrive in both sunny or shady spots, a full and vibrant planted bed will also naturally stop weeds from getting a hold, while looking beautiful and attracting wildlife to your garden as an added bonus.

Now is also a good time to jet wash paths and patios as they soon get slippery, especially on the shadier side of a house. 

Finally, don’t forget to feed your birds! Put out feeders and nest boxes ready for spring and keep plenty of fresh water available to create a wildlife haven. Garden on a Roll now supplies wonderful feeders, bird and hedgehog boxes from our friends at Wildlife World.

5. Planning and Design 

I have been designing gardens for over 30 years and it still gives me such a thrill to turn a bare and uninspiring plot into something really special. A well-designed garden should be tailored to the owner's needs, working on many levels to suit children and adults alike. I always try to use plants, shrubs and trees that help sustain local wildlife and look great throughout the seasons. For most people, finding the right mix of plants that give interest all year round is a challenge and many may employ a garden designer like me to help them. 

However this can be expensive, and  still leave you with the challenge of finding the right plants at your local garden centre or online. This is what sparked the idea of Garden on a Rollabout 15 years ago, when I was helping a group of children with a school project to plant a wildlife border in front of their classroom. I used a roll of wallpaper with markers on it and put letters on plants to guide the children and hey presto, the rest is planting by numbers history!

Follow These Gardening Tips for February to Create Your Garden’s Blueprint for a Blooming Spring! 

I sense this will be a busy year for Garden on a Roll as there are so many empty gardens around the UK that need a little love and attention, and choosing the right plant for the right place is often a headache for most new gardeners. That’s where our Garden on a Roll borders come in, expertly designed by us, effortlessly planted by you. 

By following these gardening tips for February you can create a sanctuary for both people and nature alike in your outdoor space. Every flower, shrub or tree you plant, helps the environment in so many ways.