Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for February!
01 February 2023
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.
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1. If you have your Heated propagator going it is wise to keep it as in full as possible, so 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 compost, then the seeds should only be lightly covered with fine grade vermiculite, available in our mail order catalogue or on our website. However, the Stocks, Salpiglossis and Mesembryanthemum are all seeds that need light to germinate, so they are best 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 but germination may take a little longer.
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 Begonia corms. In February or March are the ideal times 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 or on our website. 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, whereas 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 seed sowing 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. Some of the New varieties like Chilli Quickfire and Cayanetta are compact enough to grow and fruit on your windowsill.
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. We have a wide selection of flower seeds available in our mail order catalogue and on our website.
5. If you still have room in the heated propagator, at this time of year I like to sow a few seeds of hanging basket Tomatoes like Cherry Falls or Micro cherry. Sown in a heated propagator set at 21C (70F), the seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. 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 outside 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. If you are short of space, but would love to still grow some early potatoes you still can. All you need to do is buy some early maturing varieties of potato like Rocket, Swift, Jazzy 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 could try planting 4-5 tubers in a potato planters (available mail order or on our website) topping up the planter with compost as they grow. Use a soil less compost in pots and planters, with a little perlite added to the mixture, as this will allow some air into the compost, and will improve the quality of tubers you harvest. Then place your pots or planters in a frost-free greenhouse for an early harvest this spring.
7. When the soil is frozen on your allotment or Vegetable plot, it is a good time to walk across and spread some Lime onto the ground where your Brassicas are to grow this year. Then when the soil thaws and we have a few more showers of rain this will wash the Lime into the soil ready for your brassicas later this spring.
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, just sow your seeds in pots on a warm windowsill. If you sow some cabbage like ‘Caraflex F1’ and Cauliflower ‘Skipper F1’ now, you will have plants ready for planting out in April. These will give you an early summer meal before there are any caterpillars about that can feed on them. Another Brassica that will benefit from being sown this month is Brussels Sprouts like Brodie or Brendan. I like to sow this crop early so my plants are large enough for planting out 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 seed and cutting 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.