This month the garden begins to stir from it’s Winter slumbers. Winter aconites & the first snowdrops and crocuses are in bloom. Another quiet month in the garden, but there are plenty of tasks to get on with. You can look at February as the quiet before the storm, for next month you will be up to your neck in seed tray & pots as the growing season gets under way. Make good use of this quiet time clearing any remaining dead leaves & plants, any perennials that have not been pruned can now be cut back, giving the new growth plenty of room, leave a few uncut that have dried flower heads for the birds. This is the right month to finish pruning your roses, cut back hard, just above an outward facing bud, not forgetting to clear up any old leaves to avoid black spot. Now is also a good time to cut back ornamental grasses, before the new growth starts. Hellebores, remove old leaves to make the new flowers more visible. Keep dead heading pansies and other Winter & Spring bedding plants, preventing them setting seed , which further encourages them to produce more flowers. Tidy up your Winter brassicas, clearing away all fallen and dying leaves to ensure fungal infections, such as, botrytis cannot effect the rest of the plant, add a high nitrogen feed in the form of pelleted chicken manure. If you are going to make some outdoor sowings, next month, it is a good time to warm up the ground by covering up with cloches, making sure they are well secured to the ground ,as this and next month can be very windy, before sowing, check the soil temperature with a soil thermometer, the soil has to have remained over 7° “C” (45°F), for a week. Another method is the old farmer’s method, drop your trousers, and test the temperature with your bare bottom!, better to buy a thermometer though as this will not upset the neighbours! If you have never tried it, try forcing some early rhubarb, clear away the crowns of dead leaves, give them a good mulch, and cover with a large pot, or even a old dustbin, anything to prevent the light getting at the new growth and providing a micro climate inside the pot, believe me the effort is well worth it, once you have picked sufficient ,gradually over a period of about a week remove the pot, allowing the plant to adjust to the weather and continuing to grow on for further picking throughout the year. A start can now be made ”chitting” potatoes to produce short sprouts, once sprouting has taken place keeping the strongest shoots, rub off the rest. If you do not have sufficient space to grow potatoes, try growing them in potato bags which are readily available, like the rhubarb, well worth the effort. Crops to sow; broad beans onions and leeks, in pots under glass, tomatoes can also be sown, this month, in heated propagators or on a warm windowsill. Remember if using propagators, to remove any condensation from the inside of the glass, before it falls on the seedlings, causing them to “damp off”. Some vegetable seeds benefit from being sown in modules, such as beetroot, spinach, chard and summer cabbage, even works well with carrots, proving great care is taken when transplanting to open ground. Flower seeds that can be started off, slow growing bedding plants such as antirrhinums, African marigolds and geraniums, some of the quicker growing perennials such as campanulas and poppies. If you took Autumn cuttings of pinks, carnations and fuchsias they should be well rooted by now and ready to pot up in individual pots. We certainly have experienced some strange behaviour from our plants with everything just that bit earlier each year, a such sites as the late second flowering of clematis, Montana, in my own garden the campanulas have continuously flower all through the Winter, a strange sight to see, peeping through the snow. With all this talk of sowing seeds, do not forget to use our discounted seed catalogue from Dobie’s, giving us a generous discount on seed and plug plants, remembering the closing date for ordering plug plants, by post, is generally the end of this month. Pests, especially aphids such as greenfly & blackly, can already be a problem in the greenhouse and outdoors in milder weather. Be vigilant, small infestations can easily be controlled, cutting down the risk of a much bigger problem later on. Earlier I wrote a “quiet month”, but there seems plenty to get on with!