insideKENT Magazine Issue 59 - February 2017 - Page 118

OUTDOORLIVING YOUR GARDEN THIS MONTH: FEBRUARY TOP 10 JOBS THIS MONTH 1. Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover 2. Chit potato tubers 3. Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches 4. Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off 5. Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering 6. Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting 'in the green' 7. Prune wisteria 8. Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges 9. Prune conservatory climbers such as bougainvillea 10. Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter, remove dead grass from evergreen grasses CHIT POTATO TUBERS Place tubers on a tray in a single layer with the ‘rose’ end uppermost. This end has the most eyes or buds and sprouts will arise from them. Keep trays of tubers in a cool, frost-free place with moderate light, such as an unheated room and avoid direct sunlight. Sprouts form within a few weeks and, after about six weeks, shoots should be 5cm (2in) long and dark coloured. High temperatures and dark conditions encourage unsatisfactory pale, leggy shoots. Choose about four strong shoots and rub off the weaker shoots for early potatoes, but there is no need to thin shoots for later crops. Tubers can be chitted from January, but planting should be delayed until March in sheltered and southern areas or April in less favourable areas. If weather is unsuitable for planting, tubers can be left to chit further – even until May without too much crop loss. HOW TO PROTECT BLOSSOM Most potential fruit damage can be avoided by choosing a site where spring frosts are least likely, but this is seldom an option for gardeners: Planting fruit in a sunny, sheltered position such as a south-facing wall – this is especially appropriate for early flowering crops such as apricots, peaches and nectarines. If this is not possible consider using fleece to cover and protect the flowers and developing crop on nights when frost is forecast. Cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots are easier to train on walls and in the case of patio fruit are readily covered in fleece or, if potted, brought under protection on cold nights. How To Divide Snowdrops ‘In The Green’ This method is often used for snowdrops (Galanthus) and snowflakes (Leucojum) as they do not re-establish well when planted as dry bulbs. The corms of hardy cyclamen and the rhizomes of wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) may also fail to establish when planted in a dry state. Lift the bulbs with their leaves on when the soil is moist, using a border or hand fork. Carefully tease the clumps of bulbs apart by hand, trying to avoid damaging the roots. Ideally, replant singly, spacing them at least two bulb widths’ apart. Where large clumps include small seedlings, replant the bulbs in small clusters. Plant to the same depth as before, indicated by a change in stem colour from green to white. Water in thoroughly to settle the roots. The RHS is a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. Their work is driven by a simple love of plants and the belief that gardeners make the world a better place. For more information visit 118