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20 May 2022

Gardening with Jo: Plenty to keep you busy in the garden this February

With Jo McGarry of Caragh Nurseries

Gardening with Jo: Plenty to keep you busy in the garden this February

Hellebore double

How are we at the middle of February already! I can’t believe the year is flying through already, though that is probably an age thing, but also to do with being busy.

I took a walk around the garden and the nursery this morning and the warmer weather so far this year has meant that there is so much growth already this year. My snowdrops have all flowered and the early daffodils are starting to flower.

My camellias on the nursery are in flower and the buds on the magnolias are looking promising. Our rhododendrons and azaleas are all just ready from our production team. There is also some growth in some of our earlier herbaceous plants and I am just so excited about the spring ahead. It's my favourite time of year, with the awakening of everything in nature and the promise of the year to come.

Although, don’t be under any illusion that the winter is finished - there could be lots of frost still to come, so if you have plants protected, leave them where they are for now. Our rootballed stock is still being lifted from our fields and this week has been much easier with the wetter weather, as it means the rootball stays together better.

There is still plenty of rootballed hedging and trees available. The great thing about plants coming out of the fields is that they are stronger, generally, from being grown in the open ground rather than being slightly more confined in a container. We do have the luxury of being able to, at this stage in the life of the nursery, have the right stock to lift enough of those to move a percentage straight into pots, giving the best of both worlds - the size and maturity of a field grown tree or plant but the practicality of having them available all year round as a containerised option. This is the time of year to plant hedging and trees - preferably before the middle of April.

What else is happening in the garden at this time of year? Well, February is a busy month in the garden, and there are plenty of things to be done.

It’s time to prune some of the most popular climbers, including clematis, wisteria and evergreen jasmine. It also time to prune some of the shrubs in the garden including hydrangeas, buddleia, all your cornus, mahonia, lots of evergreen shrubs and your climbing and bush roses. Each one is different so do some quick research on the proper pruning of your individual plant. Even some of the different clematis varieties need to be pruned slightly differently and hydrangeas can also be tricky, depending on the variety, as some flower on the previous year's wood and some don’t. I do have a page on my website on these.

Plant any summer flowering bulbs. To be honest, I don’t usually plant summer flowering bulbs myself. I do plant a few tubers of gladioli but that is usually it as there is so much flowering in the garden at that time that comes back each year. Yet there are some fabulous flowering bulb options if you have the time and space.

I do, however, love sweet peas and always have them growing here somewhere. I usually sow these around now in the glasshouse. They do need to be protected but if you sow them now then you will get a good crop and I love the fact that you can cut all the flowers. The more you cut the more they come again and it is such a beautiful delicate flower to have in a small vase in the house. They remind me so much of my late mum and have a beautiful scent too.

Hellebores are in loads of flower at this stage, it's such a hard working plant and now is the time to cut back all those scrappier looking older leaves, letting the light and air into the plant to let it grow at its best.

If you are a vegetable grower then now is the time to chit your potatoes. I don’t tend to grow many vegetables any more. I love to do so, but these last two years the nursery has kept me so busy that some of the crops were being a little neglected. Any vegetable grower knows that neglect is not something that makes for great veg.

I do grow a couple of easy things in my glasshouse. I grow a couple of tomato crops, there is nothing better than really fresh off the vine tomatoes and alongside these I grow basil and garlic. Last year I also grew a couple if young salad leaves in a handy crop box by my back window. I didn’t have the time to keep root vegetables and things like potatoes right so I just didn’t sow them.

What we do grow, though, is peas, we sow them in any fallow fields to keep them not only clean but to add crops that put goodness back in the soil and between these crops we add peas, it means that when we cut the crops for animal feed it has the high protein peas in it. Pea protein is so good for us, and it's good for the animal feeds too. We also head down to these fields with my kids and we gather peas in pods to have plenty for the coming weeks and months.

Looking forward

That should keep you busy this coming week. Next week we will be looking at all those spring flowering shrubs and trees to add for plenty of colour. Until then, happy gardening.

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