A Monthly Guide to Vegetable Gardening - February
Articles by Gardening Expert John Harrison
February is often the coldest winter month although spring is just around the corner. More than any other month, what to do in February will depend on weather. It's a month where you can be frozen solid under snow at the start but almost pleasant by the end. The nights are drawing out and longer days mean we can start planting but only if the weather allows.
Don't just follow instructions to sow or plant outside in February off a seed packet, think of the conditions. Cold and wet ground will not germinate seeds, just rot them off. You can, however, get around this to some extent by using cloches for a week or so beforehand to warm and dry the soil.
If you're up to date with the winter tasks, and February is your absolute last chance to catch up, then the one job left is to clean the greenhouse and coldframes ready for March when the season should move into full swing.
Replace any broken panes, double check the clips are in place etc and then give it a good wash down with Jeyes Fluid. Cleaning the glass improves the light transmission so vital in the spring when light levels may be low and the Jeyes will kill off any pests hiding in the nooks and crannies.
Since you are washing the greenhouse you may as well take the opportunity to wash out your pots. These are going to be used next and good hygiene helps prevent disease spreading to the seedlings. By wash I mean just dunk and shake before stacking them to dry.
Double check the pH of the brassica patch and if need be add lime to raise it up to 6.5 or even 7.0. This will give the lime a chance to settle in before you start planting. This year's potato bed will benefit from a little extra well rotted manure spread on the surface as well. You can rotovate or fork it in next month.
If the weather is good you can do some early sowing outdoors although best under cloche unless it is particularly mild.
Broad beans and early peas to be ready for harvest in May and June can go in as can Jerusalem Artichokes. Shallots should, if possible, go out early but they really do benefit from protection, fleece or cloche until they have got going as will turnips and spinach.
Summer cabbage and cauliflowers should be started under glass, the coldframe should be sufficient. One seed tray with an insert to provide 15 modules is more than enough for this first sowing. You are only looking to get four or six plants off to a good start. Hardy lettuce can be started under glass as well to provide an early salad crop along with rocket and some radishes.
Conventional advice is to sow parsnips now, but you will get much better germination rates in March or even as late as April when the soil is in better condition. They will still be ready by the time the next frosts arrive.
Onions from seed can be started towards the end of the month, probably more reliably indoors on a cool window sill, but be careful not to shock them when they are moved out into the greenhouse or coldframe. If you didn't plant your garlic cloves out in November then pop them in now. They like a cold spell so the frosts will not harm them.
Copyright © John Harrison
About the Author
John Harrison is the author of Vegetable Growing, Month by Month and The Essential Allotment Guide amongst others. His home is in Cheshire from where he runs the Allotment Vegetable Growing web site and grows his own fruit and vegetables on his two allotments around the corner.