Give your outside space a springtime headstart with our resident gardening expert’s must-do tasks this month

Sarah Raven standing next to a gate with cosmos flowers in the background

Image: Jonathan Buckley

We’re so pleased to welcome gardening guru, author and all-round horticultural hero Sarah Raven to Good Homes for a garden advice series. Each month, she’ll share her top 10 jobs for you to be getting on with to make your outdoor space the best it can be. This is her very first column, so be sure to check back in March for your next instalment. Enjoy.

February can be a very mixed month weather-wise, from sunshine warm enough to take your coat off, to snow or heavy freezing rain. On good days, take time to get out in to the garden to work and look around. Here are my must-do jobs that will help prepare you for spring.

Order dahlias and summer-flowering bulbs

Sarah Raven carrying a bucketful of large pink dahlias

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Whopper dahlia collection, from £7.95 for two tubers

Bulbs like dahlias and gladioli need to be planted next month, so remember to place your order now to avoid disappointment – lots of the more popular varieties tend to sell out, so act fast.

Divide snowdrops

 Sarah Raven showing how to divide snowdrop plants over a bucket

Image: Jonathan Buckley

Dig up and split any large congested clumps of snowdrops, and plant more (buy 25 bulbs in the green, £8.95) if there are bare patches.

Don’t forget to water containers

A collection of terracotta and metal pots with spring-flowering bulbs arranged on a tiered plant stand

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Plant theatre, £129

If there is a dry spell, remember to water containers, as they will soon dry out even in the usual February gloom.

Plant lily bulbs

Lillium regale lily with pink striped petals

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Lilium regale, £5.50 for three bulbs 

Plant these deliciously-scented bulbs in pots and in your borders, which will brighten your garden from June to August. Choose the amazing taller varieties for the back of the beds like ‘Casa Blanca’ or asiatic ‘Nerone’ and the shorter ones like speciosum var ‘Rubrum Uchida’ or ‘White America’ in the pots. My favourite ever lily is Lilium regale and this and other species varieties seem to have the best resistance to lily beetle in our trials at perch Hill. See here for our step-by-step lily growing guide.

Add organic fertiliser

Sarah Raven tipping a bucket of GroChar soil improver onto a raised vegetable bed

Image: Jonathan Buckley; GroChar soil improver, £21.95 per 4.5kg

Now is a good time to add organic fertiliser to your borders. Blood, fish and bone, seaweed or pelleted chicken manure is ideal. Always follow the instructions on the packet for the best results.

Tidy up overgrown shrubs and roses

Sarah Raven secateurs trimming a rose bush

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Sarah Raven secateurs, £18.95

It's best to do this now before plants start budding up and the nesting season starts. Look for dead, damaged and diseased wood, then remove any crossing branches that may rub together and injure the shrub. Now is also the time to lift any shrubs and plant them in a more suitable or pleasing position. 

Pick small posies

Small snowdrop flower arrangement in a blue bowl

Image: Jonathan Buckley

Pick small posies of any flowers you have. You may think snowdrops, aconites, iris reticulatas and polyanthus (flowering now) are all too tiny to pick, but little bunches can be held together with rubber bands and slotted through a wooden noughts and crosses grid, laid flat over a small bowl of water. Add a sprig or two of daphne and viburnum for extra scent. Click here for Sarah's Flower Grid video.

Cut back clematis

Sarah Raven purple clematis viticella Etoile Violtte

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Clematis viticella ‘Etoile Violette’, £20.95 for a 2ltr plant

Any clematis that flower in late spring and early summer need a light pruning in February. Remove all overcrowded and straggly stems, cutting them as low down on the plant as you can. Tie in any stems that worked their way free from the plant support. Early spring flowerers and winter clematis varieties are happy as they are, and don’t need any attention now.

Plant fruit bushes

Sarah Raven blackberry plant with some fruit ripened and some not

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Early to late blackberry collection, £15.95 for two 9cm plants

If it’s not too frosty, you can plant fruit bushes and trees now. Buying bare root at this time of year is the cheapest and best way to do it. For planting, dig a large hole to give the roots plenty of room and add lots of organic matter to the hole and around it. This encourages the roots off to a flying start before the weather gets hot and dry.

Remember the birds

Sarah Raven diamond urban bird feeder box with a blue tit perched by the opening

Image: Jonathan Buckley; Urban bird feeder box, £27.50

The birds have been having a hard time, so make sure you fill your bird feeders and try to remember to defrost the birdbath.

 

We'd love to see how you're getting on in your gardens, so do tag us on Instagram with #thisgoodhome, tweet us @goodhomesmag or post a comment on our Facebook page.

 

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