Timing is critical - and February is where it all begins

Torbay Weekly

The days are definitely getting longer and by the end of February it will be getting on for after 6pm by the time it starts getting dark.

We’ll have lighter mornings too which aids the getting up and going to work process and not feeling like I’m a milk man.

I know it might seem counterintuitive to be urging us all to start gardening now in preparation for the year ahead, but that is exactly the equation.

If we don’t start now, some of our plants will be out in autumn and not summer.

We need to maximise the daylight hours in the summer months too.

Timing throughout the gardening year is critical and getting an early start in February is where it all begins.

If, like me, you look out of the window and only see the trees bending in the wind or horizontal rain then taking winter cuttings indoors will ease you gently into it again.

Taking cuttings is often seen as technical work not befitting the casual gardener.

The thing is this couldn’t be further from the truth, and this is even more so in winter.

It can be as easy as cutting from a blackcurrant bush at an angle on the stem and planting it in the ground to grow on.

Admittedly, this is a very basic example, but in doing just this a few years ago I grew myself another six bushes that are now fruiting well every year.

I won't be worrying the staff at Ribena just yet but they cost me nothing with just a bit of know how.

I used to think that you could only increase the number of plants you had by using seeds.

Propagation, which is increasing your plants, can also be done by dividing them, layering, and of course taking cuttings.

Winter is the ideal time to be taking hardwood cuttings, especially fruit trees and shrubs.

You could also try roses, hydrangea and wisteria or evergreens like bay, camellia and laurels.

Choose one of those sunny, dry days that we've had recently and wrap up well.

Go out and take the cutting from your chosen plant with a sharp knife or equally sharp secateurs.

It’s important to keep the cutting as fresh as possible so put them in a plastic bag before bringing them back indoors.

After cutting all the leaves off bar the top one, you can then simply place them in potting compost around the edges of a pot.

Adding perlite will assist root development if you have it but like everything in the garden this isn’t always essential.

From then on you only need to keep the soil moist, give them some light and keep them away from frost and the biting winds we've had.

Keeping them out of the wind will aid the root growth and stop them rocking around now that Christmas is over.

Winter cuttings take longer to propagate than in summer and you can estimate between two to four months before they can be described as established plants in their own right.

Most of the work is being done underground where hopefully a strong root system is being created out of sight.

This will happen as long as they get light, moisture and are kept out of extreme cold.

Doing this now will ease you out of the armchair on a sunny day and doesn't take very long either so should offer you a dose of gardening enthusiasm too.

I find doing one thing leads to another. After planting my chilli seeds the other week I’ve been all over other seeds and am currently engaged in a game of distracting my wife from going into the loft room because its full of seed trays which I know will initiate an awkward conversation for me where I mumble something pathetic about not realising again.