“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle … a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”
– Barbara Winkler
February is all about getting prepared for March, which is when the gardening season truly gets started. The soil can be warmed under fleece ready for direct seed sowing and propagators, trays and pots can be cleaned and readied. Tools will also appreciate a clean, a sharpen and perhaps the odd repair. Take advantage of any milder, dry days by doing groundwork for the months ahead. This involves digging, weeding and mulching. And then weeding again. And again.
Spring is no longer a distant promise, the days are visibly lengthening, and our gardens are slowly reawakening. Depending on where you live, primroses, muscari and iris reticulata will be in flower and daffodils will be strutting their jaunty stuff.
The average day time temperature during February is a chilly 7°C, falling to 2°C at night. But these are averages so, of course, it may be warmer but be prepared for it to be colder too! Keep some horticultural fleece handy
It’s time to firm up plans for your 2020 garden and this is where Suttons can help. The 2020 Suttons Spring Planner will be landing on doormats throughout the country from 12th February. If your free copy does not arrive then please order one via our website.
Top Ten Jobs for February
If the weather allows you to do nothing else this month try and complete the following jobs:
- Tackle weeds now and your summer workload will be much reduced. Just take care where you step to avoid any bulbs that are poking their noses up.
- Prune hybrid tea and shrub roses this month. They will flower on this season’s stems, so prune them hard, cutting just above a bud and removing all weak, damaged and crossing stems.
- Lily bulbs planted now, in containers, will have plenty of time to grow in preparation for a magnificent summer display.
- Pot up your over-wintered dahlia tubers to start them into growth.
- Order Suttons summer bedding plug plants now, taking advantage of the Pick & Mix offers.
- Tidy up your pots and containers by gently removing the top few centimetres of soil and replacing with fresh compost. Look out for signs of vine weevil (small white grubs) and order Nemasys Vine Weevil Killer if spotted.
- Buddleia can be pruned hard this month, cutting right back to a pair of healthy buds.
- Cut back the stems of late-flowering clematis.
- Dig over your vegetable patch, removing any perennial weeds.
- Plant a tree, either directly in the ground or in a large pot. Read Christine’s Patch below for guidance.
Some Like it Hot, Hot, Hot!
On the cover of our latest catalogue, Suttons Spring Planner 2020, we feature the world’s hottest chilli, Carolina Reaper. Reaching a whopping 2.2 million of the Scoville Scale this devilishly hot wee beastie is not for the faint-hearted. Handle with care!
Suttons Take on Plastic
Look around your workplace or home today and odds are that you will see a multitude of products made from plastic. Although we couldn’t currently live without plastics, we’re all now well aware of their potential to harm the environment if used or disposed of inappropriately. Over the years we at Suttons have used plastics for the best of reasons, including the growing and transporting of plants to make sure that they arrive with you in excellent condition.
For the last two years we have been reviewing every part of our business to see where we can switch to recycled; ensure any plastic used is recyclable, or ideally, switch to a non-plastic alternative. Each time we make a change we are also careful to make sure that we don’t compromise on the quality of our products as the biggest waste would be to supply plants or other products to you that arrived in poor condition and subsequently needed to be thrown away and replaced.
As you’ll see from the notes below we have made big steps in the right direction and, although we still have progress to make, you can be assured that we are constantly looking for ways of improving still further so that we can be happy that we are supplying products to you in ways which are as sustainable as possible.
Catalogues: Last year we switched to sending out most of our catalogues without any outer wrapper at all and, where we did need a wrapper, we have switched from polythene to paper. This saves over 1 million plastic wrappers a year.
Parcel packaging: We have switched to compostable ‘bio-plastic’ inflated pillows to help cushion products despatched in outer boxes, and these boxes are made from recycled and recyclable cardboard.
Plug plant trays sent in outer cardboard boxes: We are still searching for a suitable alternative to the plastic trays to hold the plug plants, but we use all recycled plastic and last year we switched to a green coloured plastic which makes the trays recyclable too. It is possible that you may still receive plants in the black recycled plastic tray as we use up our old stock during this interim period. Last year we placed a thin sheet of plastic under some plant trays to avoid the outer cardboard box becoming wet and damaged. This year we have switched to wax-coated cardboard boxes to avoid the use of these plastic sheets.
Other plug plant trays: We switched to a new tray format with a thin, transparent plastic cover (like a microwave meal). Not only do these use 30% less plastic than the old trays but we have found that the plants tend to arrive in better condition. These too are made from recycled plastic and have been switched to the green ‘recyclable’ plastic.
Potted plants: We are switching to a grey coloured pot this year which is recyclable as well as being recycled. We place these in an outer plastic bag to keep the compost in place and prevent the cardboard boxes (made from recycled paper) being damaged by moisture. This year we are switching these bags to fully compostable, bio-plastic bags made from EU grown maize.
Reducing plastic usage is just one of the improvements we are making. We’ve invested £200,000 in solar panels on our warehouse, switched to peat-free compost on our nursery, switched all our lights to low energy LED bulbs plus a whole range of other measures to reduce our impact on the planet.
Visit our website for more information.
James Wong’s Botanical Infusions
We’ve long known that sucking a peppermint can soothe an upset tummy, that feverfew can aid recovery from a headache and that ginger offers relief from motion sickness but James Wong has taken this a step further by suggesting that we can not only make our own natural remedies but that we can grow them too.
James tells us, “It’s amazing what benefits can be achieved from harnessing the natural power of plants. With a bit of guidance from our online recipes, you will soon be tinkering away like a botanical Willy Wonka, developing your own homespun remedies for yourself or friends. Good luck and have fun!”
Mint Marokko – make a Moroccan mint tea to aid an upset stomach and to aid digestion.
Herb of Life Jiaogulan, Tea of Life – with a slight liquorice flavour this plant makes a tea to help heal heart problems, high blood pressure and disorders of the immune system.
Lemon Verbena Freshman – a refreshing summer drink with an almost sherbet-like lemon flavour
Aztec Sweet herb Colada – the leaves of this herb have been used to treat chest infections for centuries.
“Hi, I’m Christine Loader, Horticultural and Technical Advisor here at Suttons. I have been an avid gardener all my life and have a passion for growing Fruit and Vegetables. When I am not in my greenhouse I can usually be found on my allotment. Gardening has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I look forward to sharing my expertise with you in our newsletter. This month we’re looking at planting trees.”
With climate change happening for real, it is more important than ever that we all, on an individual level, make some contributions to help improve our planet. Planting trees is something we can do without too much effort or skill. And why not plant fruit trees? They provide food for pollinating insects, shelter to a host of insects and birds, and fruit for us to eat plus, they look pretty too!
Fruit trees will grow in any fertile soil in sunny and reasonably sheltered positions. Apple, Pears and Plums are the most popular varieties but if you have lots of space and are in warmer parts of the country, why not plant Nut trees, Apricots or Peaches?
Bare root trees are the best trees to buy; they are usually maiden trees so are young and will re-establish much better and make really good trees in the long run. Try to prevent them from fruiting in the first year of planting, so all their energy is diverted into good root establishment.
Prepare the ground in advance. The soil should be well cultivated when your tree arrives. Dig a hole at least two spades depth and add generous amounts of garden compost and/or well-rotted manure. A handful of bone meal and some mycorrhizal is beneficial for strong root development.
When your tree arrives, soak the roots for a short period of time, 3-4 hours is plenty, and then put into the planting hole with the roots evenly spread out. The tree must be planted at the same depth as it was on the nursery – you can see the mark on the bark as it is a different colour. Put in your stake and tie the tree securely but not too tight – remember to loosen the tie periodically so as not to restrict the growth. Backfill with the soil and gently firm down as you go along and water them in thoroughly so that no air pockets remain and the soil is evenly damp.
Now, remember to water the tree regularly throughout the first year of growth. Roots develop as soon as planted even when the tree is dormant so water during the dry periods in the winter and spring as well as the summer. The most common failure of bare-rooted fruit trees is the lack of watering!
Every spring apply a generous amount of Blood Fish and Bone around the base and some potash during the summer months. Keep the base weed and grass free. Prune apple and pear trees in the dormant season and stone fruit in early summer.
Sweet Pea Seed
No summer garden, whatever the size, is complete without at least one grouping of gloriously scented sweet peas and unless you opted for autumn sowing, now is the time to get them started indoors.
Sow the seeds individually in root trainers (the cardboard centre of toilet rolls work almost, but not quite, as well) using good quality seed compost and covering the seeds with 1 cm of compost. Give them a drink and keep them at about 15C until they have germinated. Then place them in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse – you are aiming for strong compact plants, so they don’t want to be pampered! Keep the cold frame open as much as possible although close it during really bad weather.
It depends on weather conditions, but your plants should be ready for planting out in March or April. They will reward you with lovely early blooms in May or June. Just remember to keep cutting them as this will encourage repeat flowering. As if you’ll need reminding!
February’s birthstone is the amethyst so what could be more fitting than to sow a packet of Suttons Sweet Pea Amethyst & Orchids? Popping a packet in any February birthday cards is bound to be appreciated. Especially when the beautiful blooms are cut and brought into the home.
Offer of the Month
Primula Everlast Offer: Buy 1 pack of 6 x 9cm potted plants for £15 and get your second pack half price!
Pretty Primula Everlast is fantastic for long-lasting perennial colour during the dullest months of the year! A modern breeding breakthrough with unique genetics, Everlast will add a continuous flush of delicious pale yellow flowers to your garden for an incredible 5 months – from early autumn right through to spring.
Jam-packed with flowers that cover the plant, this perennial Primula packs a real punch and will delight you year after year. This great new variety is almost a modern version of the incredibly popular wild primrose, Primula vulgaris.
Offer: Buy 1 pack of Primula Everlast and get your second pack half price! That’s 12 potted plants for just £22.50! Simply add 2 or more packs to your basket to activate your discount. Find out more and buy online here.