The garden is slowly beginning to wake from hibernation. Snowdrops and crocuses are blooming here and there. Even tulips and daffodils are stretching out towards the sun. It’s not long till spring. You can see it and feel it. Your desire to work in the garden grows day by day. It’s lovely! So nice to be able to work in the garden already.
IT’S CHECKMATE AGAINST SLUGS
All gardeners get annoyed by slugs. The ground has barely warmed up again, and the slugs are already out and about and chewing their way through the flower beds and vegetable patch. They ruin the beautiful flowers and the vegetable harvest. But not all kinds of slugs eat our plants. It’s mostly the black slugs that threaten to destroy the joy of gardening. Here’s how to recognise them: Black slugs are about 2 cm long (0.79 inches). Unfortunately, if they’re happy in your garden, they will stay there. Hardly any plant is safe from them. The Spanish slug is a real beast in comparison with the garden slug – it can grow up to ten cm long (3.94 inches). Its colour varies from reddish to dark brown. Because it tastes so bitter, this slug has hardly any natural predators. The Spanish slug becomes voracious in the spring when it’s fully grown. Here’s what you can do: Cover flower pots and flower beds with a special ecological transparent protective coating, which is available for purchase from gardening stores. The coating has a smooth surface that stops the slugs from getting a grip. Always plant beds for vegetables in an open sunny spot in the garden, or sprinkle naturally obstructing material around the plants, such as lime, sawdust, mulch or coffee grounds. The slugs don’t like these.
NOW IT’S TIME TO PREPARE FOR SOWING YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN
If you want plant tomatoes, chilli, and pepper seedlings yourself, it’s time to start sowing now. The easiest way is to do that in a heated greenhouse. It offers the perfect light and temperature conditions. However, it’s almost as easy to get the same results in a mini greenhouse on a sunny windowsill. Here’s how: sow the tomato, pepper, and chill seeds in a container with planting soil, cover thinly with the soil and use a spray bottle to make sure the soil is moist enough. Finally, place the transparent lid over your plants and place the mini greenhouse in front of a window. Open the lid of the mini greenhouse once a day and check that the soil is still moist. After about ten days, the first plants should appear. The germination temperature of the tomatoes is between 18 and 25 degrees Celsius. Peppers and chillies need 25 to 28 degrees Celsius.
IN FEBRUARY, IT’S TIME TO PRUNE THE TREES
Pruning is one of the most important tasks in late winter. Whether you should do it in February or March depends entirely on the weather in your region. Summer-flowering shrubs such as summer lilac, panicle hydrangea, hydrangea macrophylla or hibiscus can all be pruned heavily on a frost-free day. This helps them develop long and strong shoots for the summer. Apple, pear, and quince trees also need to be pruned now. These fruit trees need so-called maintenance pruning to slow down excessive growth and promote fruit development. To do this, first cut off the competing shoots, then cut the vertically growing shoots and finally remove the old overhanging wood. Always use sharp tools when pruning. This makes the work easier and ensures that the cuts are clean. In this way, there’s less damage to your trees. Things to keep in mind: The longer you wait to prune, the later the trees will bloom.
CHECK YOUR WINTER PROTECTION AGAIN
Even though it sometimes feels like spring, winter isn’t over yet. Snow and frost can still visit your garden at any time and cause a lot of damage. That’s why it’s so important to keep checking the winter protection in your garden. Are the stems of the roses still properly protected, so that they won’t be damaged by icy winds? Are the pots on the terrace close enough to the house wall and on feet or styrofoam boards, so that they’re not damaged by ground frost? Does the rainwater barrel need to be emptied? Do the hydrangeas in the flowerbed need to be protected with more twigs and leaves, so that the new, young shoots don’t freeze? The next time you’re walking around your garden, check all these points again.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO KEEP FEEDING THE BIRDS
Even in February, you should feed the birds in the garden. At this time of year, they need a lot of nutrition and energy to mate, nest and lay eggs. The more well-nourished the parents are, the healthier their offspring will be. That’s why you should feed the small birds with fats, nuts, fruits and seeds, every day. Also keep in mind that they need fresh drinking and bathing water.
NOW IT’S TIME FOR FERTILIZER
The first plants are slowly waking up from their winter sleep now and are already very hungry. Roses, clematis, and magnificent perennials in particular might need a large serving of food after the snow and frost. Luckily enough you can make them happy with a couple of shovels of compost. You can also mix in some horn shavings with the compost. This fertiliser mixture has a particularly long-lasting effect, as the nutrients are washed into the soil only after prolonged rain. Treat your roses and clematis to a mixture of 3 l of compost and 50 g of horn shavings per square metre. You can also give this to perennials such as phlox, larkspur, and peonies.
WHEN THE FROST AND SNOW HAVE DISAPPEARED, IT’S TIME TO PRUNE THE BOXWOOD
When the frost and snow have disappeared, you can start the following: If your boxwood look a little unkempt or is in bad shape, you can cut it to give it a new lease of life. If it looks very bare in places, then the only thing that will save it is a radical cutting-down. You can cut deep into the woody part until you see a green ring in the cut surface – that’s the active growth zone. It will take some time, but after a while, small green leaves will grow from these places again and in a few years, your boxwood will look perfect again.
TAKE CARE OF PERENNIALS AT THE END OF THE MONTH
The perennial beds are also on your to-do list: You should remove withered stems on decoration grasses such as Chinese silver grass, fountain grass and switch grass and drastically cut what’s left. It’s easiest if you hold the stems together in bundles and cut them off with the secateurs a hand’s width above the ground. NOTE: It’s important to wear gloves when you do this. The grass can be sharp and you risk cutting yourself. Another thing you can do, after the risk of frost has passed, is to dig up late summer and autumn flowers such as stonecrop and purple cornflower, divide them with a sharp knife and plant them elsewhere. By doing this you preserve their vitality and vibrant flowering.