Friday, 29 January 2010

Gardening Jobs for February

It may be the shortest month of the year, but February can often surprise us with a wide range of weather conditions. There might be snow and frost one week, followed by a few mild, sunny days, before bitterly cold winds blow in rain and plunging temperatures again. Any work you want to do in the garden has to be guided by the weather.

But even if you can only get outdoors for brief intervals it’s well worth making the effort because some jobs are best done at this time of year. Here are some of them:

· Plant bare-rooted trees, shrubs and hedging plants as soon as possible after receiving them so they don’t dry out. If you are unable to put them straight into what will become their permanent positions give them a temporary home in any spare corner. There’s no need to worry about planting them ‘properly’ with correct spacing or staking. The only important thing is to make sure the bare roots are covered with soil.

· Snowdrops are a welcome sight on grey winter days but they are notoriously difficult to grow from bulbs. They are best planted while ‘in the green’ shortly after flowering so now is the time to buy them in. If snowdrops are already established in your garden you can lift and divide the clumps to spread them further. Do you have some to spare? They’d make a lovely Valentine’s Day gift for someone!

· If you need to prune apple and pear trees this year you must do it soon while they are still dormant. If their buds are beginning to open, you’ll have to leave it until next winter. The aim of pruning is to remove any dead or damaged wood, allow more light and air into the tree, and thin out overcrowded fruiting spurs. By doing the latter, fewer apples or pears will be produced but they will be larger and of better quality than if the tree is left to its own devices.

· Prune summer flowering clematis now to ensure a good display later in the year.

· If you have rhubarb now is the time to force an early crop by covering some of the crowns with lightproof buckets, boxes or specially designed pottery forcing jars.

· Start sowing vegetable seeds if the weather allows. If you are not sure when conditions are right follow nature’s lead and observe what wild plants are doing. If new weeds are sprouting so will the hardier vegetables like early carrots, parsnips and broccoli. Onion sets can also be planted.

· And talking of weeds – the earlier you tackle them, the fewer you’ll have to deal with later.

· If you will need some expert help with a landscaping project this year, such as building new walls, giving your patio a makeover or installing new decking, don’t delay in asking a local professional landscape gardener to visit and give you a free, no obligation consultation. Finalizing your plans now will enable the work to begin as soon as the weather improves and you will have the whole summer to enjoy your new garden.

Five Reasons to Build Fences and Walls Inside Your Garden

Walls and fences are most commonly used to define and protect the boundaries of a garden, but they are also useful and decorative in many other situations. Here are just five reasons why you might want to include them in your garden design. Once you start thinking about it, you will probably find a lot more!

If your favourite sunbathing spot is overlooked by a neighbouring building, or the back garden is easily visible from the front of the house, a fence or wall can be used as a screen against prying eyes. Its position is more important than its size so check your plans from all angles.

Sunshine is wonderful, but if your patio is sometimes too hot for comfort create a patch of dappled shade by adding some decorative fencing panels. They will block the glare while still allowing a cooling breeze to waft through.

If your garden is exposed to strong winds you might consider putting up walls or fences to protect tender plants. Solid barriers can make the problem worse as the air deflected on one side causes turbulence on the other. The aim of an effective windbreak is only to slow the airflow so choose a fence or wall with plenty of gaps in it.

Dividing garden rooms
Use walls or fences to separate the vegetable plot from the lawn, or children’s play areas from your flower garden. They can be incorporated into the design of each ‘room’. For example, a low stone wall marking the edge of an ornamental garden can incorporate planters for flowers; a simple picket fence around a play area could be painted in bright colours.

Steeply sloping land that is difficult to cultivate can be shaped into more manageable terraces with the help of retaining walls. It can be a big job but the transformation is usually worth the effort. The same idea can be used to add height and interest to a flat garden. A series of natural stone or brick walls can be backfilled with soil to gradually raise the ground level.

Design feature
For best results, incorporate internal fences and walls into the overall design of your garden. You don’t have to restrict yourself to rectangular brick walls or brown wooden fences. They can be made in all shapes and sizes and from a wide range of materials to suit any style of garden. They can be curved, angular, undulating, and in any colour you can imagine. Use them to harmonize with their surroundings – or to act as a contrast.

A well-built stone wall is a work of art in itself. Instead of hiding it behind plants you could even make it the main feature!

If you have some ideas for using walls and fences to enhance your garden but are not sure which materials to use, or you want advice on the best way to tackle the job, contact a professional landscape gardener who will be happy to visit and explain all the options in a free, no obligation consultation.