The winter has so far been remarkably mild, if sadly very, very wet.  As a result plants have in many cases continued to grow throughout this period and many spring flowering plants are well ahead of schedule.

Bulbs in particular are very advanced and look like they could flower very early indeed.  It is a good idea to start looking for them earlier than usual otherwise you may miss out on certain varieties.  Primroses are showing good colour at the moment and will boost any tired looking pots.  Hellebores, traditional flowers of this time of year have also started early and are looking excellent at the moment. Winter flowering shrubs such as Viburnum tinus, Mahonia, Lonicera, Sarcococca, Hamamelis, etc. are all showing excellent colour now and should not be missed as all gardens should have some kind of winter flowering plant included in the design to boost the dark grey days.

The lack of hard frost means that if you can get onto your garden at the moment, then it is the perfect time for planting.  The warmer than usual soil conditions means that plants will root quicker and so establish better.

To encourage gardeners to take advantage of this weather and to get started early Ribblesdale Nurseries has a very significant SALE running at the moment with discounts off all outdoor plants.

The time has come to prepare for vegetable crops for the coming year and seed potatoes are available to ‘chit’ ready to plant in March.  Onion sets and garlic bulbs can be planted as soon as the ground is a little drier.

If you want summer flowering bulbs then now is the time to start off begonia corms, lily bulbs and dahlias under cover so that when spring arrives and they have good shoots on they can be planted out.

This is planning and preparation season ready for the year ahead.  As soon as the soil is dry enough, your beds and borders should be replenished with manure or fertiliser to put a good nutrient base in helping your plants for the months ahead.  Make sure your greenhouse is cleaned and sterilised ready for seed sowing etc.  Many herbaceous perennials are already shooting, so if you have splitting and dividing to do, this is a good time to do it as the clumps should be easy to lift and the early shoots help you to decide where to make your divisions.  Whilst any pruning should be left for a few weeks to be safe, early shoots will also be helpful in deciding where you should make your cuts.

‘National Nest Box Week’ runs from the 14th – 21st of this month so treat your feathered friends to a new home.

Let us hope this early start is a good sign for the season ahead and we can finally have a good gardening year.