The Fruit Garden in Winter
What to do in the fruit garden in February
January tasks for fruit apply equally well to February. Plus a number of additional tasks that need to be carried out toward the end of the month. Protect the blossom of early flowering trees from frost and hand pollinate if necessary.
Any new fruit trees or bush fruits which have arrived bare rooted should be planted without delay, or stored or heeled in, as described in January.
Prune bush, standard and half standard plums, gages, damsons and figs, plus fan-trained cherries, peaches, nectarines, and apricots.
Continue spraying fruit trees and soft fruits and commence feeding.
Peaches and Nectarines
Peaches and nectarines can spring into growth now if they are in a warm position or against a sunny wall. Once this happens, be on your guard to protect the tender new growth, and later the blossom, against frost, which destroy the new growth and stop the tree setting fruit. The easiest way to prevent frost damage is by draping netting or horticultural fleece over the trees whenever a frost is likely, and secure with ties or pegs.
Preventing Peach Leaf Curl
Peach leaf curl (caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans) distorts and reddens the developing peach leaves, which then fall well before the autumn. The disease also weakens the tree and can stop it carrying any fruit within a few years. To prevent infection, spray with a specialised copper fungicide when the new shoots are about 2-3 cm (1 in) long, followed by another in the autumn, after leaf-fall.
Feeding And Mulching Fruit Trees and Bushes
Feeding of smaller fruit trees can be done this month, 3-4.5 m (10-15 ft) high. This will give the fertilizer a chance to dissolve and be carried down to the root zone. A balanced fertilizer can be sprinkled on at about 128 g per m sq (4 oz per sq yd) or the rate recommended on the pack.
Mulching around young trees and bush fruits and between rows of cane fruits. Spread a thick layer, about 10 cm (4 in) deep, of well-rotted garden compost or manure when the soil is moist, and after any pruning has been completed. This will ensure that the soil retains plenty of moisture over the season.
Tying-up Hybrid Cane Fruits
Soft fruit such as tayberries, loganberries, can now be trained to their wires. Use a training system that allows the new canes, which will grow during the year, to be tied in loosely and separately from the fruiting ones.
Forcing Early Strawberries in February
With little or no heat, strawberries can be ready for picking by late May. To bring on early strawberries, cloche a few of the best young plants towards the end of the month in a sunny spot. Scatter a few slug pellets among the plants to protect the young shoots. Remember to remove cloches or leave the ends open on warm days to provide access for pollinating insects, if you are not pollinating the flowers by hand.
Strawberries grown in pots outdoors can be brought indoors to a cool greenhouse and gently brought on. Once signs of growth are visible, give them a little more water and raise the temperature gradually to 10-16°C (50-60°F), to encourage early flowers and fruit.
New cultivars of strawberry, such as 'Sweetheart', can be grown from seed now, to bear fruit in the late summer. Start them off indoors in trays or plugs, keeping then in a warm, sunny spot, at temperature of 16°C (60°F). As the young plants grow, pot them up singly and then plant out, 30 cm (1 ft) apart, when all danger of frost has passed.
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Fruit for March
Stored apples and pears can still be enjoyed this month.