According to the calendar, February is the last month of summer, but it can be very hot and humid and these conditions take their toll on the garden. Over the next few months the weather will cool, days will get shorter and the milder months of autumn will arrive. For now, though, there are some simple tasks you can undertake that will keep your garden in shape.
Here are five top February tasks to give your garden a lift:
Many plants are flowering and can bloom well into autumn. Grab the secateurs and clip off all the spent flowers. Cut back stems to a node to stimulate new growth. Water and fertilise then watch new shoots and buds appear on roses, petunias, dahlias along with many other annuals and perennials. To learn more about deadheading and pruning in general, read this article.
Feed, feed, feed
Citrus like a good feed in late summer, so February is ideal for this. Use a specialist citrus food and apply according to recommendations on the packet. Water well before applying any plant food and take time to remove any weeds from under the plants. Roses and camellias too enjoy a feed now with complete fertiliser or cow manure. For essential fertilising information, click here.
Not only does spreading mulch help make the garden look neat and tidy, it also helps to suppress weed growth, keep moisture in soils and keep plant roots cool. Water well before applying organic mulch. A 5cm layer of coarse mulch will allow water to trickle through to the soil below. For a more in-depth guide to mulching, read this article.
Get rid of ‘manky’ bits
Maybe ‘manky’ is not a technical term, but at this time of the year plants often have diseased leaves, stems, flowers or fruit. Fungal diseases in particular thrive in moist and humid conditions, so February is prime fungus time - for more info, read this article. Remove any disease-affected plant material you see and put them in a bag and into the rubbish. Also clear up fallen diseased leaves and bag and bin them to avoid spreading fungal spores. To help plants that are suffering on a regular basis such as fuchsias and roses, apply a fungicide such as Rose Shield or Fungus Gun. Alternatively, there are organic, potassium salt-based options like Eco-Fungicide or Eco-Rose which are also effective.
As well as fungal problems, you may also discover burnt foliage and fruit due to sunburn and water stress. If you can shade new growth, prune away damage, water and feed the plant and cover new growth or exposed stems with a shadecloth on hot days. Continue to keep the plant well watered. New growth can be further protected with Waterwise DroughtShield, a product that acts as a sunscreen for plants and reduces moisture loss.
If potted plants are continually drying out, are hard to water or are looking stressed, repot them into fresh potting mix. If the plant still has growing to do, move it into a slightly larger pot. Give all container plants a check up. Make sure drainage holes are clear - for example, not blocked with roots - and remove any weeds. If potting mix is hard to wet, soak the entire pot in a large container of water to thoroughly rewet the mix. Adding a soil wetting agent to the watering can as you water helps potting mix (and garden soil) absorb and retain water. For more repotting hints and tips, click here.