This post is the second instalment of 12 monthly blogs that will cover some of the many essential tasks that will need to be undertaken throughout the year.
This month you’ll discover numerous indications that spring is drawing closer, with various bulbs making an appearance and wild animals awakening as temperatures begin to rise. There are loads of things to do both inside and outside this month as the garden springs up once more, it’s a perfect chance to prune bushes and climbers, for example, Wisteria and evergreen shrubs.
Top Jobs This Month:
- Prune last seasons flowering shrubs
- Net crops to keep the birds away
- Cut back evergreen hedges, Climbers and Wisteria
- Protect blossoming trees against frost damage
- Ready vegetable beds and start sowing vegetable seeds undercover
- Begin chitting potato tubers for a greater, faster harvest
Pruning last seasons shrubs
Early-flowering shrubs that bloom in late winter, spring and early summer (depending on the shrub) require yearly pruning to support robust, sound shoots and enhance blossoming. Annual pruning lengthens the life of these early-flowering plants.
How to prune
Pruning requirements depend on the type of shrub; however, all early-flowering shrubs require routine when it comes to the removal of damaged or dead wood.
Basic Pruning Principles:
- Remove all damaged & dead shoots back to their point of origin.
- Where there are many stems, remove some to ground level to keep the bush from becoming overcrowded.
- Remove spindly or twiggy shoots down to their point of origin.
Be aware that these shrubs usually flower on the previous year’s growth.
Netting Crops (Bird Control)
The first thing to note is that you must attach netting to a rigid frame. So it forms an enclosure around plants that is tight on all sides, this prevents birds & other animals from becoming entangled and also keep the netting from becoming snared or entangled with the plant you are attempting to protect.
Many gardeners prefer to use scare tactics as a way of protecting their crops by either hanging bright objects from branches or by purchasing specialist bird scaring devices.
Wisteria will become dormant and leafless during the Jan/Feb months, during this time you will need to tidy it up before the growing season starts, doing this ensures your flowers will not become hindered by leaves.
How to Prune
Summer pruning (July or August) Cut back the Long green shoots from this year’s growth down to five or six leaves after flowering in July or August. This will control the overall size of the wisteria and encourages it to form more flowering buds.
Late Winter – Early Spring (January or February) Cut back previously pruned shoots further. Cut them back to within 2.5–5cm (1–2in) of older branches, or 2 to 3 buds.
Don’t panic If you missed pruning your wisteria in July/ August then you can still prune back to two buds now.
Although pruning depends on the plants individual needs, some tasks are quite similar:
- Removed deadwood
- Tie in new growth regularly to fill space
- Tie inside shoots to fill gaps
- Prune back overgrown shoots
Pruning climbers in the wrong season can produce a poor display the following year. Plants should recover and flower again in the second flowering season (after pruning), so no long-term harm will have been done.
Protecting trees from frost
When to protect from frost- When temperatures reach below 0°C (32°F) over a sustained period, this temperature is cold enough to freeze trees’ buds/blossoms, fruit, leaves, and even twigs. The measures that will need to be taken depend on the fruit you are trying to protect.
Frost protection will prevent:
- Damage to new buds, shoots or flowers
- Russeting and cracked skin on apples and pears
- Abnormally formed fruits, typically on pears
How to protect fruit from frosts
Most fruit damage can be avoided by choosing an area where spring frosts are least likely, however, this isn’t always an option for gardeners. Planting in a sunny, sheltered spot such as a south-facing wall is preferable for early flowering crops such as apricots, nectarines & peaches.
If the above is not possible then try these following methods:
Soft fruit: use a fleece cover to protect the developing crops on the nights a frost is forecasted.
Strawberries: protect with a double layer of fleece, open in the day to allow pollinators access
Small fruit trees: cover with fleece overnight, remove during the day.
Keep grasses at the base of trees cut short during the flowering season, long grass will prevent the heat from escaping out of the soil.
Sewing Tender Crops
Begin Chitting Potatoes
What is potato chitting?
Chitting is when you encourage seed potatoes to sprout before planting. You can start chitting from late January to February, about six weeks before you intend to plant out the vegetables. Each seed potato has a more rounded, blunt end that has a number of ‘eyes’.
Stand your seed potatoes with the blunt end facing upwards in an old egg box, with plenty of natural light.
Your potatoes will be ready to plant outside once the shoots reach 1.5-2.5cm (0.5-1in) in length.
When planting potato crops, you should always use seed potatoes, as supermarket ones often produce disappointing results due to high disease levels.
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