Spring seems a lot closer now that we’ve made it through January, so it’s time to start thinking about getting back out into the garden. We spoke to Fiona and Adam from Perennial Favourites, a hidden gem of a nursery tucked away between Blyth Quayside and Ridley Park, to find out their top tips and essential garden jobs for the next few months.
- This is your last chance to cut your hedges to avoid disturbing nests, as it’s not recommended to do so between 1st March and 31st July.
- Consider taking part in National Nest Box Week between 14th–21st February to provide more potential nesting sites for the birds in your garden.
- Assess your garden. While it’s in its ‘bare bones’ of winter, can you see any areas that need a rethink or redesign?
- Plant bare root plants of trees, hedging and fruit bushes before the end of February, so they can get established properly before the drier summer weather – remember to water newly planted trees and shrubs if it’s a really dry summer.
- Sow sweet peas indoors to get them started early, as well as broad beans and parsnips.
- Some bulbs, like snowdrops, are best moved ‘in the green’, which is when the bulbs are growing and not dormant, and should be done now.
- Start chitting your potatoes towards the end of the month.
- For some gorgeous scents in your garden this February, choose sarcococca, hammemelis mollis, or witch hazel (Adam and Fiona suggest pallida for the best scent), and viburnum x bodnantense, or arrowwood.
- Other flowers which are in full bloom now include Christmas roses, winter jasmine (for some cheery yellow), and clematis cirrhosa.
- Towards the end of March when flowering bulbs have finished, resist the temptation to cut off the long, straggly leaves – this is when the leaves send food back down the bulb and start to build up for next year.
- Depending on the weather, it’s time for the first cut of the grass. You should also lift and divide your perennials and prune bush and climbing roses.
- Mulch and top dress your flower beds, which helps keep down weeds, feed the plants and keep moisture down – but don’t mulch onto very dry or frozen soil.
- Start planting your onion sets and sow peas, soaking them overnight to get them away quicker.
- Plants that will be performing in March include spring bulbs like daffodils, crocuses, tulips and grape hyacinths, and primula species can provide a burst of bright, early colour.
- Pulmonaria species are great plants for shady areas coming into flower in March, especially sissinghurst white and blue ensign.
- Japanese quince will also be starting to flower, ranging in shades from white, pink, peach and scarlet.
- While we might be longing for the summer weather and wanting the garden to look summery, don’t give into the temptation to plant your summer beds too early. In the North East we can still have damaging frosts right through until May, and most of the plants used for summer bedding are not frost-hardy.
- If you have vegetables in pots, make sure you ‘harden them off’, which just means introducing them to the harder life outdoors before planting them out. If a late frost is forecast, covering tender shoots with newspaper is enough to protect them.
- Start feeding your lawn, beds and borders, and don’t forget about your hedges and shrubs either – they need food too.
- Tulips will be in their full glory this month, and alliums will be coming into flower too, as well as alpines which can give a great burst of colour to the garden.
- For shadier spots, try lamprocapnos spectabilis and epimedium sulphureum, which has pale yellow flowers followed by lovely bronze-coloured new leaves.
If you need gardening advice for any time of year, for any type of garden, Fiona and Adam are always willing to lend a green-thumbed hand.