Tree’s company: show your garden some love this month

If one of your gardening new year's resolutions was to plant a tree, then now is the time to make that thought become a reality.
If one of your gardening new year's resolutions was to plant a tree, then now is the time to make that thought become a reality.

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It’s time to give your garden some love by tidying it up and assessing any winter damage.

There will still be frosts and winter weather ahead but you can plan and prepare for spring arriving.

If one of your gardening new year resolutions was to plant a tree, now is the time to make that a reality.

In the coldest months of the year, you can buy bare rooted or root balled trees which are cheaper and establish better.

These trees and shrubs are lifted straight from the ground and should be planted by the end of February whilst they are still dormant before there are any signs of growth, or by end of March, possibly into April, in the north of Scotland.

Bare root and root balled trees can only be bought when the weather is cold because, once it warms up, the root ball dries out too quickly unless planted in the ground.

By planting in winter, it means that by spring and early summer, trees will have benefited from optimum growing conditions and had the chance to establish their root system whilst dormant.

The key to successful tree planting is to ensure you prepare the site well, first by digging a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. Avoid planting if the ground is frozen or extremely waterlogged.

Your planting hole should be no deeper than the roots, but at least three times the diameter of the root ball.

It’s a good idea to soak bare-rooted trees for about 30 minutes before planting.

Place the tree in the planting hole so the first flare of roots on the stem are level with the soil surface. If you plant the tree too deep, it can result in rot and disease.

You may need to insert a stake for top heavy or larger trees. Refill the planting hole, firm gently and water in.

Drought stress is common in newly-planted trees so make sure you keep watering throughout the growing season. The quantity required will vary with soil type, but 30 to 50 litres per square metre – four to six watering cans – each week in dry weather will do the trick.

If you are growing your own vegetables, now is a good time to sow lettuce seeds – both under cover and outside.

If you start now, it will give you a continuous supply that can be harvested throughout the year.

Sow in modules or fibre pots under cover to have lettuces ready to plant outside in four to six weeks. You can also sow outdoors, but use cloches or small poly tunnels until next month when the soil has warmed up. They will also provide your lettuce seedlings with protection from birds and slugs.

Good varieties to start now include cut-and-come again Salad Bowl – oak leaved, high yield with green and red varieties; a cos such as Lobjoits Green – dense, crisp heads with self folding leaves; or the small butterhead Tom Thumb – perfect for growing in small spaces, it matures early and has a mild taste.

Prepare for spring by carrying out basic maintenance.

As the Royal Horticultural Society says, this month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase.

There’s plenty to do indoors this month to prepare for the season ahead.

Outdoors, as the garden comes to life, it’s time to prune shrubs and climbers, such as wisteria, as well as evergreen hedges.

Top three jobs this month

  • Prepare vegetable beds and sow vegetables under cover
  • Chit potatoes – let them grow shoots – to plant out
  • Prune winter flowering shrubs that have finished flowering