The Gardener's Journal is a free monthly gardening guide delivered direct to your inbox.

Each month, receive tips on the top jobs needed in your garden as well as a wealth of information on a range of gardening topics. From sowing seeds to picking fruit, each month get access to information on the care and maintenance of your flowerbeds, vegetable plot and lawn. As with your own gardening diary, the journal is split into separate sections, each covering a different area of garden care.

Monday 4 February 2013

This Month in your Garden - February

The time-honoured pastime in January into February of settling into a comfortable armchair and browsing the new seed catalogues could be easily interrupted. A little sunshine peeking through, a warmer day and you could be out there with the hoe, clearing weeds in beds and breaking up the surface soil where winter frosts have done their work. 

Fading snowdrops can be lifted and single bulbs replanted a good few centimetres apart. You could be cutting back old stems in herbaceous borders, doing a bit more digging, spending time in the greenhouse sowing sweet peas to germinate, starting Dahlias in gentle heat.

How to prune – February pruning

You can prune the weak growth from summer flowering clematis and cut back late-flowering clematis to 15-30cm from the ground.

Wisteria will benefit from a final pruning, cut back laterals and side shoots to within two or three buds of the main stem. Wear gloves to protect your hands. 

The Lawn Care Guide – February

February is a relatively quiet time for lawn care but the grass is going through a change with parts dying back as it grows. This may result in spongy areas, with moss and weed taking over. 

Keep aerating the lawn and, as soon as you can, scarify. You may need to wait until March or later to do this if conditions are harsh or very wet. Meanwhile you can carry on using a garden fork or a towed aerator to get air to the roots and improve drainage. 

How to... Top Dress

Top Dress

Top dressing is usually bought as a mixture of loam, sand and peat, or peat alternative and there are several brands available and your supplier can advise on the mix. 

Mow the lawn short on a dry day and apply the top dressing as a dry mix. To smooth the lawn, filling in dips and hollows, you apply at 3 to 4 kilos per square metre, without smothering the grass. You need 75% of the grass leaf still exposed. 

The Vegetable Plot – February

Time to prepare vegetable seed beds, clearing the soil of weeds by hoeing. Clear out old beds of Brussels sprouts and cabbages. You can direct sow peas and broad beans under fleece towards the end of the month. Plant shallots and make sure ground is well trenched or rotovated for onion main crops. Chit potatoes and sow parsley in a warm, sheltered place.

Sow Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, lettuces, onions, leeks, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, tomatoes and turnips.

The Big Glut Recipe – February


Leeks, cabbages, broccoli abound but what about a simple supper that feeds up to eight people, takes little time to prepare and virtually cooks itself? Pour a nice glass (or two) of your favourite red wine to accompany the pie. Simplicity itself, and you can always cook and add another seasonal vegetable to serve:

  • 1 beef stock cube 
  • 50g/2 oz butter 
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced 
  • 2 celery sticks, trimmed and finely diced 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves stripped 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1kg/2lb 4oz good-quality British beef mince 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée 
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • A few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste 
  • 175ml/3 fl oz red wine 
  • Pinch each of sea salt and black pepper
To make the mash topping
  • 1kg/2lb 4oz white potatoes, peeled 
  • 75g/3oz butter 
  • A splash of milk 
  • Parmesan cheese, for grating 
  • Buttered peas, another vegetable or salad to serve

Lawn Care Questions and Answers - February

Q.  What is top dressing and why should I do it?

A. The best bowling greens have benefited from top dressing for hundreds of years, the oldest in the world dating back to before A.D.1299. 

When you top dress a lawn you add a fine layer of fresh soil to the lawn’s surface which helps to build soil quality over time and provide benefits for the lawn. If you have sandy soil it will help it to retain moisture and resist drought. Clay soil will drain better and root development will be helped. 

Timing is important and it’s best to aerate and/or scarify the lawn before applying top dressing. Top dressing will help to even out the lawn, filling in hollows, and it helps to stimulate the production of new shoots for a denser grass cover, keeping weeds and moss at bay.  

Find out how to top dress a lawn in our useful guide.