Garden Diary - February

Doreen Moody's mouse in the (green)house is back...

February began with frost at night and low temperatures during the day, so the first week was spent doing a little pruning of the apple trees, trimming the grass edges and raking up leaves which seem to appear from nowhere. I intend to give the fruit trees a good surface mulch although some of the plants planted as ground cover are already in leaf.

The cold greenhouse, which needs repairs after the storm, is still warm enough for some of the tender plants so I thought I would sow some of the perennial seeds I had saved from my own plants. I find they Snowdrop with four petalsneed very little watering if sown in a large pot as thinly as possible whereas in modules they need constant attention.

The white sweetpeas I sowed to replace the ones the mouse had decimated last month, variety 'Mrs Collier', are well up which will give me early plants to put out in March. I decided to try some globe artichokes, which also germinated very quickly as did a few Swiss chard. These should be ready for planting out in early April.

Under the trees in the plantation the snowdrops are looking particularly well and the ones I transplanted last month look as if they have never been moved. Some of the early crocuses are already appearing. The crocuses stem from great grandmother’s day, when there were two straight rows along the original avenue to the house. Over the years I have divided them and grown them from Crocusesseed and now there are literally thousands and thousands, over maybe an acre of ground.

Major clearing of the debris around the broken stump of the large chestnut tree has taken up a lot of time. The cyclamen planted around the base last month have recovered. As there is such a lot of space, which will look bare in summer, I decided to put some shrubs grown from cuttings into it. My help managed with a large axe to cut some of the roots and was able to dig a few holes about eighteen inches deep. These were filled with my own compost which contained a large proportion of leaf mould, into which were planted a white rhododendron, a double camellia which I think is white, a mahonia (variety Beali) and an unidentified evergreen.

Although these plants were only two to three years old they had very good root systems so I am quite hopeful that they will survive if I keep them well watered. The check in growth may stop the buds from opening, I shall just have to wait and see.

The golden ivy on the house has had its annual trim and I noticed the nerines planted among the campanulas at its base appeared not to be damaged by the frosty nights...

At last repairs to my cold greenhouse are nearly complete. With the help of a small heater I hope to make use of it for early crops. The tomato seed sown from my own variety has germinated very well on the kitchen windowsill. Tomatoes and tomato seedlingsWith a little tender loving care I hope to have plants to put in the greenhouse in early March. In case of failure I am making another sowing from a fresh tomato still edible from last year’s crop. I am on my last bowl of tomatoes from last year’s crop at the end of February!

The trench has been dug for the broad beans. As soon as this cold snap has passed I shall plant them in two rows about a foot apart. As they are already germinated in the greenhouse this will give them a head start from beans sown in the bare soil.

With the lengthening days, although cold, there has been plenty of sunshine, and some of the many plants are showing signs of early growth including Trillium chlorophyllum which is already in bud and some of the border plants. In recent years it Early rhododendronhas been noticeable that plants have been coming into flower much earlier than usual. This is especially true of a rhododendron by the main lawn, which used to flower in June and is now flowering in February.

Late frosts can cause damage so a mulch around them will help protect the young shoots. Slugs can also be a problem I find a few crushed eggshells mixed with powdered mothballs sprinkled around the plants usually works.

STOP PRESS: The mouse in the greenhouse is back! My newly sprouted broad bean seeds have been eaten. This time I really will set a trap.