During the winter it can be tempting to use a break in windy or rainy weather to get a head start on spring garden tasks.
While this can be part of the fun of gardening it is a risky business! If you have the time to step in swiftly if the weather becomes a danger to young plants, then go ahead. Be prepared to monitor the warmth of your greenhouse! Equally if you are prepared to bear some losses to a late frost then rose pruning can be started this month. However for the time-pressed gardener I would urge caution. Although March onwards can be very busy for propagation what is worse than having to re-sow seeds that have not thrived in bad weather?
Where seed-packets suggest you start sowing this month wait until March. The seeds will often catch up with those planted earlier. By the time this month is over you’ll have more of an idea what the weather is doing for the rest of the spring. Then you can decide when to prune your roses and plant containerised plants to give them the best start possible. Don’t forget, it’s not just the day that you do the gardening task that is important: the following period of time should be right for the plants to recover from the stress.
Damp areas that remain stagnant are ideal conditions for disease to spread. As it won’t be long before vulnerable young plants are being grown it is useful to have as healthy an environment as possible. Overgrown plants can be divided this month; ornamental grasses being one example. Tie back plants falling over the one you’re concentrating on so you can see what you’re doing easily.
You can slice off smaller pieces with a sharp spade or put two forks back-to-back and push apart. Make sure you are using hardy, vigorous plants that tolerate being moved.
Check with a good RHS plant book if you’re not sure.
In the meantime, let’s hope for some drier weather. I’m not quite so concerned about warmer weather: the aphids on the roses in the Walled Garden are still alive because of the mild winter we have had so far!