February 11: Plant roses; feed trees
Valentine's Day is coming up on Tuesday and it would be hard to avoid thinking about plants and flowers and not mention the most popular and expensive expression of love at this time of year: a lovely bunch of 12 red roses. But what I would recommend is to give a gift that will last for years, not just a few flowers but the entire plant. Now is an ideal time to plant roses in well-prepared soil with lots of organic matter. Although you may not have 12 red roses on the plant this year it is quite possible that you will have some on the plant next year (this also helps if you should forget next year!). Some of the best varieties to choose are Red Rascal, Trumpeter, Valentine Heart (although this is pink), Glad Tidings, Evelyn Fison, National Trust, the list is almost endless.
•Trees and shrubs will benefit from a feed around now. I like to use fish blood and bone or bone meal. These are both organic fertilisers that will last in the soil for most of the summer nourishing the plants. For a quick hit and a more rapid response it is possible to use grow more or pelleted chicken manure, which are quite cost effective at this time of year. Sprinkle the fertiliser around each individual plant and then work it into the soil with a fork. If you have a dog and you are worried the dog will try and dig it up, then cover the area with a layer of mulch, which will also help to suppress the weeds. Remember it is the trees and shrubs that provide the essential frame work of the garden and a spring feed helps to keep them healthy and growing strongly for years to come.
• Pots of daffodils, crocus and hyacinth do a great job of brightening up the house over the winter months – but it doesn't need to end there as they can also provide a brilliant show in the garden for years to come. Ease off on the watering once the flowers have finished but don't remove any of the leaves or the flower spike, as these should be allowed to die off slowly. If a seed capsule starts to form remove this, then place the bulbs under the greenhouse staging until they die back when they can be planted outside in borders where they should flower next year at the normal time.
•Last weekend saw the first snow of 2012 and some of the first real cold and frosty weather. I have noticed that the birds have been hitting the Pyracantha and Cotoneaster berries. In the very cold weather it is important to look after our feathered friends if you have been feeding them over the winter it is essential that you keep going until the weather really warms up in April when there is more natural food around. Don't forget fresh water is also an essential.
•Soon things are going to hot up in the garden with masses of sowing, planting and weeding to be done. And once we get into March we will be mowing the lawn again even if only on a high setting. So get all those little jobs done now that you won't have time for later. Tubs and containers that have permanent plantings of shrubs and perennials should be top dressed with fresh compost. Scrape the old compost away to a depth of about 2-3cm, then add some fresh compost with a slow release fertiliser added. This will feed the plants over several months, doing away with the chore of feeding them in spring and summer.