If the beds where the Pansies and Violas are to be planted in spring were not prepared in the autumn, they should be prepared this month. The ground ought to be trenched and enriched with well-decayed cow or horse manure. The bottom spit should be moved to ensure perfect drainage, but it should not be brought to the surface. A small proportion of fresh material should be incorporated with the surface soil. There is nothing better for this than some good, turfy loam which has been carefully picked over to remove any wire-worms. Plants in frames will require to be aired every fine day, and only shut up closely when frost is likely to occur. Violets in frames should be kept scrupulously clean.
Plants in frames require the same attention as in January. Stir the surface of the soil between the rows with a very narrow fork or with a pointed stick, removing at the same time any decayed foliage. February is a trying month for plants in frames; the lights should never be shut up quite closely except during frost. It is not likely the plants will require water, but should the surface get very dry a gentle watering should be given in the forenoon of a fine day. This is a good time to sow seed under glass to produce plants to bloom in summer. Violets in frames will now be yielding large quantities of bloom.
The frames must now be ventilated more freely, so as to get the plants well hardened by the end of the month. On fine days the sashes can be removed altogether for an hour or two in the middle of the day, and by the end of the month, unless the weather is unusually cold, the sashes may be dispensed with if the plants have been gradually hardened off. This month all plans for planting should be completed, and beds being lightly forked over as recommended in the chapter on culture. It is quite time the ground was prepared for Violets to be removed shortly from the frames.
In some districts it is desirable to plant out in March, and in all districts planting should be completed as early as possible in April. This applies to seedlings as well as to named varieties. A sharp look-out must be kept for slugs and snails in beds of newly planted Pansies, as one of these creatures will destroy a plant in a night. If greenfly appears, the plants must be syringed as recommended. Early flower-buds should be removed, to allow the plants to gain strength. The Violets in frames should be divided this month and the best crowns planted on an outside border, according to the directions given in the chapter on Violets.
The surface of the beds should be stirred and kept free of weeds. The growths as they elongate will require attention in the way of pegging and staking if exhibition flowers are required, and surplus growths must be pinched out. By the end of the month some very fine flowers will be obtained. It is usual at the Temple Show in London at the end of this month to see remarkably fine flowers of both Pansies and Violas. This month and next is a good time to sow seeds in frames to get strong plants for September planting.
In the southern counties Pansy beds should be mulched with old, sifted manure and well watered in dry weather. Grand flowers should be had all this month, and it should be the happiest of all for the Pansy grower. If a few pods of seed are desired, flowers should be left on special plants for this purpose. It is well to bear in mind that blooms should be removed whenever they begin to fade if a long period of bloom is desired. In any case they should be removed on the score of tidiness.
This is a trying month for Pansies and Violas in the south, and it is often well to remove a large number of the strong growths and to encourage, by attention to watering, etc., the young growths from the centres of the plants to develop. For autumn-planting, cuttings should be inserted this month in a shaded situation, either in a cold frame or in the open. A rather sharp compost of sand, loam, and leaf-mould is a fine medium for rooting. Violas should be sprayed with clear water at the end of the afternoon on hot days.
Pansies and Violas will still be doing well in the north, but by the end of the month propagation should begin in earnest for next year's stock. Flowers are exhibited at the southern shows well up to the middle of July, and in August and September they are always found at north-country shows, being remarkably fine in September at exhibitions in Scotland. Frames should be prepared for Sweet Violets.
Cuttings may be put in frames any time during this month, and they will make fine plants for spring-planting. Beds for autumn-planting should be prepared, and the planting begun by the end of the month. Sweet Violets should be lifted from the outside border and planted in frames.
Autumn-planting ought to be completed during the first eight or ten days of this month. This applies not only to summer-struck cuttings but also to seedlings sown in May or June. Frames filled with newly inserted cuttings must be shaded in bright weather, and gently watered in dry weather. Sweet Violets which were planted in frames last month need all the air possible during October.
Plants in frames will require air on bright days. It is a good plan to leave an inch or two of air continuously by raising the back of the sash, as damp is a greater enemy than cold. This month the preparation of ground for spring-planting should be begun.
The work this month is similar to that in November, but as the weather will probably be colder, mats should be in readiness to place over the frames when there is more frost than one or two degrees. It will be well to take advantage of a fine day to stir the surface soil between the lines of the plants. These remarks apply to Sweet Violets, Pansies, and Violas.