Romance will be in the minds of many of us this week but if you can, try to find time to start off early potatoes and finish fruit tree pruning.
It's also a good time for a bit of feeding and checking for variegated shrubs that might be getting wayward.
Snowdrops will be at their best, so perhaps take your Valentine to see some local ones! Check out Candide's list of the best places to see them in the UK.
- Plant seed potatoes in containers filled with potting compost to get the very earliest crop. These 'new potatoes' will be earliest if you choose an early maturing variety that you have 'chitted'. You'll need to give your container some frost protection for best results.
Seed potatoes chitting on a cool indoor window ledge
- Chitting is the process of starting your tubers into early growth on a windowsill.
Chitted seed potatoes planted in pots
- As this month progresses, you should finish pruning apple and pear trees. Read Jo's articles to find out more.
- However, if your trees are intensively trained (fan, cordon, step-over or espalier) then these are best pruned in summer when they are in leaf. You can also prune stone fruit (plums, cherries, peach) in summer when they too are in leaf.
Pruning a dormant pear tree
- You can plant new pot-grown fruit trees and bushes at any time of the year, but if they are bare rooted they need to go in right now. The sap will be beginning to rise soon and it's best to plant before that happens.
Fruit bushes and trees to plant
- Sow early peas and broad beans. If your soil is very wet and cold, it's best to sow into cell modular trays with a bit of protection from the cold and from mice.
Sow seed of peas and beans in modular trays
- If you have a conservatory then this is a good time to prune plants back and reshape them. Bougainvillea, Jasmine and Plumbago capensis can get very untidy but will respond to hard pruning now.
Trees and shrubs in pots
- Plants growing permanently in pots on your terrace should be fed now. I recommend adding Osmocote resin-coated, slow-release granules to the top layer.
- You can cover this fertiliser with a little compost but this is not essential. These granules are often sold for feeding hanging baskets and pots, and will gradually feed for five to six months - most of the growing season.
- Check variegated plants for shoots that have reverted to all green or white. Remove these and trim back to the point where the leaves are uniformly variegated.
- If left, the green leaves will outgrow the variegated and might eventually take over. Leaves that are all white are often very weak and can sometimes burn with bright sun.
- Check your hollies, Euonymus, Griselinia, Elaeagnus, Aucuba, Pittosporum and even conifers.
- Remove battered blooms from pampas grass and cut back leaves to 30 to 45 cm. It is much safer than setting fire to it. Wear gloves when handling pampas grass as the leaves are sharp.
- Get your Valentine a plant or a bunch of flowers! Have a look at Dan's list for some inspiration.
- And finally, do try to get out and see some of the best gardens where snowdrops grow. They should be at their peak now and it's an enchanting experience!