It may still be winter, and the days might be short, but spring is just around the corner, and there’s plenty to do in the garden if you want to get ahead for the year. Most plants will still be dormant in February, making it an excellent time to cut back old foliage and prune shrubs. However, the early months of the year don’t have to all be about removing things that have died; they are also an opportunity to encourage new growth and start planting, particularly for those with a greenhouse looking to grow root vegetables. Today, we’re going to take a closer look and what you should plant before spring in your garden, greenhouse or allotment.
February to March is the recommended time to buy seed potatoes and chit them. The chitting process allows seed potatoes to grow sprouts before being planted into the ground. This gives them a head start and speeds up growing time. While chitting potatoes isn’t necessary for growth; it is highly recommended.
You should chit your seed potatoes six weeks before planting, so chitting in February for planting in March or April is ideal. All you need to successfully chit potatoes is light, a little bit of heat and some old egg boxes. It’s recommended that you use seed potatoes over ordinary potatoes as seed potatoes already have a mini sprout – making chitting even easier.
Have a read of our guide to how and when to plant seed potatoes for everything you need to know about chitting potatoes.
Leeks, Onions and Celeriac
You can buy vegetable seeds online and start to sow leek, onions and celeriac seeds undercover in a greenhouse in February. Leeks are slow-growing, so starting in early February is best. Sow leek seeds in pots or seed trays with multi-purpose compost, scattering the seeds on the surface and covering them with a few millimetres of moist compost.
January, February and March are a good time to harvest last years celeriac crop if you haven’t already, and start new seeds in March. You should sow celeriac thinly in small pots, either kept in a propagator at 15-18oC or covered with clear plastic a bag and kept in a warm location.
There are two approaches to growing onions. The first method involves starting them from ‘sets’ by planting a partially grown onion in the ground and harvesting once it has grown into a bigger onion. Alternatively, you can grow onions from seeds. Onions grown from seeds are less likely to flower prematurely before harvesting – however, onion seeds don’t have a long shelf life, so make sure you use fresh seeds to avoid a disappointing crop. Sow your onion seeds in pots in a warm place indoors and move to the greenhouse once they start to show.
Hardy Flowering Plants
Most plants won’t tolerate being planted until the weather warms up and the days become longer, but some hardy plants don’t mind getting started as early as February. If you’re looking to buy seeds online for early planting, look for hardy geraniums, sweet peas, lupins and violas.
Geraniums are great because they’re tough, happy to grow anywhere and flower for months on end. They’re also an excellent food source for pollinating insects and can easily be divided to create a new, free plant.
Sweet Peas are great for adding early height to your beds, and lupins will tolerate being planted in free-draining soil in a sunny spot in February. Violas are also super tough and will put up with being planted right through winter and are a great way to perk up a bare, early-year garden when everything else is still dormant.
Pruning Fruiting Brushes and Trees
By growing something that needs planting before spring, showing your fruit-bearing trees and shrubs some love will help promote good growth and a bountiful harvest for the year ahead.
Autumn fruiting raspberry canes should be cut back to the ground to stimulate new growth, which will fruit later in the year. Take the opportunity to prune apple and pear trees whilst they are still dormant; however, leave plum, cherry and apricot tree pruning until the summer to prevent silver leaf disease. Need a new pair of loppers or pruners? You can order garden supplies online through our website.
Take time to prune fruit bushes such as currants and gooseberries to maintain a productive framework, and protect the blossoms of peaches, apricots and nectarines from late frost.
Early Planting Bulbs
Most summer-flowering bulbs won’t tolerate being planted until at least late March, so try to be patient. However, if you’re desperate to get started, lily bulbs can be planted anytime between early autumn and mid-spring, meaning now is the ideal time to plant them if you want them to bloom for the summer. Lilies like a sunny spot with rich, well-draining soil; they can also be grown in containers but require protection from the cold. You can browse our range, including lilies, or summer flowering bulbs online.