Gardening in February: what to plant, prune and tidy in your garden this month

fruit trees

There is still time to plant other fruit trees. My favorite fruit is dwarf fifteen, perfect for a small garden, which blossoms voluptuously in spring and fruits throughout autumn. Mine is ‘Lezcovacz’, from Blackmoor Nurseries (

what to sow


When turnips are picked young they are nutty and sweet. Easy to grow, they are suited to our conditions. Sow early varieties such as ‘Tokyo Cross’ and ‘Purple Top Milan’ into the ground now and cover with a cloche.


Sow lettuces under cover now and you will have fresh leaves in May and June. It is still a good idea to choose hardy winter types such as ‘Valdor’, ‘Winter Gem’ and ‘Reine de Glace’. Plant them out under cloches once they are a few inches tall.


I am making a sowing of my favorite and most dependable hardy annual cut flowers – Cornflower ‘Blue Boy’, Calendula ‘Indian Prince’ and Ammi majus – in the greenhouse this week, so that they are decent sized plants by the time the weather and soil warms enough to plant them out.


I do better with spinach sown in spring and autumn than I do with summer sowings, which bolt as they germinate. Sow a fast-growing variety such as ‘Amazon’ now, under cloches, and at intervals through March and April for an early summer crop.

What to prune and trim


It is time to prune those clematis that flower in May and June (known as group 2) and those that flower in late summer (group 3). Group 2 flower on short new growths arising from older wood, so shorten last year’s growth back to a pair of healthy buds. This will stimulate side shoots. Group 3 flower on new growth, so they can be cut back almost to the ground. I find that mine are very susceptible to slug attacks if I do this, so I choose a pair of buds a couple of feet from the ground and prune to them.

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Epimedium cut back

Epimedium foliage has served us well all winter, but if you take the shears to it now you will make space for the flowers to emerge unhindered, followed quickly on their heels by the lovely new copper spring foliage.

Cut back ornamental vines such as Virginia creeper and Boston ivy now, particularly those climbing house walls and heading for windows and gutters. They are vigorous, so you can hack back hard.

winter jasmine

As winter jasmine finishes flowering, prune back some of the flowered stems, right back to the main branches from which they arise. This is also a good time to layer longer, trailing branches to make new plants. Dig up a little scoop of earth, lay a branch along it, then bury it again. Pin it down with a tent peg or stone and water it. This time next year you will be able to sever the little rooted section and pot it up to make a new plant.

hydrangea heads

The time has come to remove hydrangea heads. Cut back to just above the first pair of healthy-looking buds. It is not a bad idea to remove a third of the oldest stems completely, right to their base.

This is a good time to prune shrubs. However, that council-style short back and sides is the worst method ever devised. Better to take out a third of the oldest stems completely, then repeat next winter and the winter after that.


If your deciduous hedges are untidy this is your last chance to give them a trim before nesting time. If you have any suspicions that birds might be building in there, stay your hand and leave them straggly.

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winter brassicas

Keep winter brassicas in shape for as long as possible by pulling off dead leaves, and netting them from pigeons. As natural foods run out pigeons turn on other crops, so don’t presume your cabbages are out of the woods.

grass heads

Ornamental grass heads may still be glinting in morning frosts but it is time to cut them back. Deciduous grasses can be cut back hard. Evergreen grasses should have flower heads removed and a tidy-up of the more straggly leaves.

what to eat


Soon Jerusalem artichokes will start sprouting and growing, so this is your last chance to dig up some to eat. Roasted and slightly caramelised, they are gorgeous, but at a price – flatulence. Eating with plenty of summer savory is supposed to alleviate the effects, but sadly I have never found this to be the case.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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