Preparation is the key
FEBRUARY requires quite a lot of activity in the garden in preparation for the warmer days. After June, Clematis should be pruned to within 12 inches of soil level leaving a few strong buds near the base which will produce the new stems and the late summe
FEBRUARY requires quite a lot of activity in the garden in preparation for the warmer days. After June, Clematis should be pruned to within 12 inches of soil level leaving a few strong buds near the base which will produce the new stems and the late summer flowers. Clematis, such as the popular Montana variety, which flower early in the year should only have light trimming after flowering. The faded flowering stems on pampas grass should be cut out as near to their base as possible and if they are destined for the compost heap they will need further chopping. I once placed some large sections of pampas grass at the bottom of one of my compost bins and they remained hard and dry without breaking down at all. I had to dig them out and crush the stems before they started to rot. Cut down to the ground herbaceous plants, particularly where bulbs have been planted between them. This will allow light and air in and the soil should be forked over and a layer of compost or well-rotted manure spread over the top. In the vegetable garden shallots can be planted, provided the soil is not too wet, since unlike onions they will tolerate very cold soil temperatures without any harm. It is also time to buy seed potatoes for planting in March before the most popular early-maturing varieties disappear from the garden centres. Thanks to the general revival of interest in growing food crops, the number of potato varieties on sale has increased greatly in recent years and while many gardeners stick to the old favourites like Aran Pilot and Pink Fir Apple, it is worth experimenting. The seed potato producers normally label their products with details of how early the crop will mature and what special qualities can be expected such as resistance to eel worm or slug damage. Study these before making a choice and look out for some of the experimental packs being offered for sale which have small quantities of several different types.