Romance will be on the minds of many of us this week but do try to find time to start off early potatoes, finish fruit tree pruning, do a bit of feeding but also checking for variegated shrubs that might be getting wayward. Snowdrops are at their best, so perhaps take your Valentine to see some.
- Plant seed potatoes in potting compost filled containers for the very earliest crop. These 'new potatoes' will be earliest if you choose an early maturing variety that you have 'chitted'.'Chitting' is starting your tubers into early growth on a windowsill so that when you plant them, they hit the ground running! You'll need to give your container some frost protection for best results.
- As this month progresses, you should finish pruning apple and pear trees. If your trees are either fan, cordon, step-over or espalier trained then these are pruned not now, but when in leaf in summer. It is also best to prune stone fruit, such as plums, cherries, peach, etc. in summer.
- With pot grown fruit trees and bushes, you can plant new ones at any time of the year, but with those that are not - i.e. bare rooted - they need to go in now. The sap will be beginning to rise very soon, so it's best to plant the bare root before that happens.
- 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 all will respond to hard pruning now.
- Sow early peas and broad beans. If your soil is very wet and still cold then it is best to sow these into cell modular trays with a bit of protection from the cold and from mice.
- If you have plants growing permanently in pots on your terrace, now is a good time to feed them. I recommend adding Osmocote resin coated slow release granules to the top layer.If you can cover this with a little more compost, it will help but is not essential. Often sold for feeding hanging baskets and pots, this gradually feeds for 5 to 6 months and so feeds for most of the growing season.
- Check variegated plants for shoots that have reverted to all green or to all white. Remove these but trim them back to the point where the leaves are uniformly variegated.If left, the green ones will outgrow the variegated and might eventually take over. The all white ones are often very weak and can sometimes burn with bright sun.
Check hollies, Euonymus, Griselinia, Elaeagnus, Aucuba and Pittosporum.
- Remove battered blooms from pampas grass and cut back leaves to 30 to 45 cm. It is much safer than setting fire to it which is something that I know some people do! Wear gloves when handling it as the leaves are sharp.
- Get your Valentine a plant or a bunch of flowers!
- And finally, try to get out and visit some of the best gardens where snowdrops grow. They should be at their peak now and it's an enchanting experience! Check out this county list here