Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for February!
04 February 2020
Andrew Tokely’s Gardening Tips for February!
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This month seed sowing and forward planning really gets underway. There is plenty to be done under glass or on the windowsill in preparation for the year ahead in the flower garden and on the vegetable plot.
1. To help keep the heated propagator in full production, this month I will be sowing some more Half-Hardy Annuals for my summer bedding display. This month I will be sowing Asters, Salpiglossis, Verbena, Stocks, Mesembryanthemum and two of my favourite summer bedding plants Gazania and Rudbeckia. When sowing remember that Asters, Gazania, Verbena and Rudbeckia can all be sown on the surface of moist seed sowing or multipurpose compost, then the seeds should be lightly covered with fine grade vermiculite. However the Stocks, Salpiglossis and Mesembryanthemum are all seeds that need light to germinate, so they should be sown on the surface of the compost and given no covering at all. If you haven’t got a propagator, you can still sow seeds on a warm windowsill indoors.
2. One of my favourite flowers are Begonias, so I always make sure I grow plenty of these in the garden. One way of growing them is from corms. This month is the ideal time of year for starting Begonia corms back into growth. If like me you kept your Begonia corms from last year, and stored them in a frost-free place over winter, you can now bring them out of hibernation. If you didn’t store any from last year all is not lost, as there are plenty of quality corms available for sale by Mail Order. Starting corms back into growth is easily done; all you need to do is place them into seed trays of multipurpose compost. The corms should be inserted into the trays so the top of each corm is about level with the surface of the compost. Some gardeners have difficulty identifying the top from the bottom of a begonia corm, well an easy way to remember is the top will have a slight concave in it, where as the bottom will be round with a few hairs coming from it. Once you have placed your corms in trays of compost give them a good watering and place the trays in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill at a minimum temperature of 20C (70F).
3. If you like Sweet Peppers added to Salads or Chilli Peppers to spice up your other culinary dishes why not try and grow your own, they are not as difficult as you may think. Peppers need sowing this month in heated propagator, at a minimum temperature of 21C (70F) and will germinate within 14-21 days. They are best sown on the surface of moist multipurpose compost and lightly covered with fine grade vermiculite. Sowing now will ensure you have big enough plants to produce fruit this summer going into autumn. I always grow 3 plants in a patio container, as they look attractive and are very productive when grown on a sunny patio.
4. If you lifted your Dahlia Tubers from the garden last year and stored them in a frost-free place over winter this month they can be started back into growth. I always pack the tubers into boxes filled with soil-less multipurpose compost and place them in a warm greenhouse. These tubers will soon start to shoot and in no time you will have some new shoots that can be taken as cuttings, for this years plants.
5. If I have room in the heated propagator, at this time of year I like to sow a few seeds of hanging basket Tomatoes like the very sweet tasting cherry variety Tumbling Tom Red. Sown in a heated propagator set at 21C (70F), the seeds will germinate in 10-14days. These young plants can then be grown on in the glasshouse until big enough to plant into baskets. The planted baskets can be hung in the greenhouse to grow on until they can safely be hung towards the end of May. If you follow my method of growing tomatoes, you could be one of the first to be picking outdoor Tomatoes.
6. Even if you are short of space you can still grow your own Potatoes. All you need to do is buy some early maturing varieties of potato like Rocket, Swift or Maris Bard, then plant a single tuber into a large 25cm(10in) pot of Compost. If you don’t have any large pots you can always buy large black polythene bags mail order. Or you could try planting 4-5 tubers in a potato barrel, topping up the barrel with compost as they grow. Use a Soil less compost in pots and barrels, with a little Perlite added to the barrel mixture, as this will allow some air into the compost, and will improve the quality of tubers you harvest. Then place your pots or barrels in a frost-free greenhouse for an early harvest this spring.
7. If you have any Clematis that flower from mid-summer to autumn on new growth produced in the spring they will benefit from a hard prune this month. Examples of these are some of the large flowered hybrids like Jackmanii, Ernest Markham and Clematis viticella. I always cut all the stems back to about 30cm (12in) from ground level, cutting just above a pair of buds. After pruning I sprinkle some Blood, Fish and Bone fertiliser around the base of the plants to encourage new growth, to help the plants carry this year’s crop of flowers.
8. If you have space in the greenhouse border, or a large pot, trough or even a grow bag now is a good time to make an early sowing of Radish. Sow these under glass in shallow drills for the first pick of the season.
9. Later this month I will be sowing some summer Brassicas under glass in the heated propagator .If you don’t have a propagator sow your seeds in pots on a warm windowsill. If you sow some cabbage like ‘Caraflex ’ and Cauliflower ‘Atalaya’ now, you will have plants ready for planting out in April. These will give you an early summer meal before there any Caterpillars are about that can feed on them. Another Brassica that will benefit from being sown this month is Brussels Sprouts. I like to sow this early so my plants are large enough for planting in April. These will then grow throughout the year and make tall stalks full of Sprouts in perfect condition for harvesting this autumn.
10. If you saved some of last years old Fuchsia plants and kept them under glass in a heated glasshouse, then this month they should start producing some fresh young shoots. These young shoots can be taken as cuttings. Fuchsias root very easily in a heated propagator (20C / 70F). Simply remove the young shoots from the stools with a sharp knife. Cut the shoot back to just below a pair of leaves (node) and remove the bottom 2 leaves. This should leave a cutting ideally about 4cm (1 1/2in) long. Once your cutting have been prepared, I like to dip them into a Hormone rooting powder, then insert them into a pot or tray of moist multipurpose compost. Before inserting cover the top of the moist compost with a thin layer of Perlite. Perlite is a white product and will reflect light back onto your cuttings, which is very important on these dull winter days with low light levels. This extra light bouncing back onto the cuttings will help them root in approx. 14-21 days.