February is a great time to start a new season of growing our own food.
But be wary, most crops are going to need some protection until the air and soil warm up. So this month, tasks include some windowsill sowing, a bit of planting, pruning and some timely maintenance before we all get very busy!
Home grown food
• Sow fast-maturing salads. Early lettuce sown on the windowsill can be planted out later for those really early crops. 'Tom Thumb' is a really tasty variety that I'd recommend.
Lettuce 'Tom Thumb'
• Mixed salad leaves can be sown directly into pots, troughs or upcycled containers. They can produce a fresh tasty harvest in 8-10 weeks or less.
Mixed lettuce salad leaf seedlings
• Buy your seed potatoes and set them up to shoot (‘chitting’). Early varieties such as ‘Rocket’ will have better yields, and later varieties will also benefit. Chitting encourages growth before it's warm enough to plant out. There are lots of varieties, but if you've room for only one variety then grow ‘Charlotte’.
Seed potatoes chitting on a windowsill
• Continue planting shallots, but only plant onion sets if the soil is warm enough. But you can sow onion seeds now. Onion sets and seed will prefer well-manured soil that hasn’t been used to grow onions, leeks or shallots for several years before.
• Lots of other vegetables can be sown now, like turnips, lettuce, stump rooted carrots, early cabbage, cauliflower and spinach. These are best in trays on the windowsill but could be planted out later in February.
• If you didn’t do it earlier in the year, cover a patch of cultivated soil with a sheet of clear polythene. This will trap in the sun's heat so that you can begin sowing outside earlier.
Clear polythene covering soil to trap in the sun's heat
• You should be finishing pruning apple and pear trees this month. Remove damaged branches, branches that rub or are too close and any that are diseased. Aim to open the centre of a tree up to let more light and air into the tree. You'll get bigger and better-coloured fruits that way.
If you want to learn more, check out Jo's articles!
Fruit tree pruning should be completed this month
• February is the last month when you can safely plant bare-root trees, bushes and fruit canes. After this month, it will be better to plant potted or pot grown plants.
• Before the usual spring rush, paint fences and sheds and get other general maintenance jobs done. If plants are trained onto fences you want to paint, make certain that the paint you use is safe for plants.
• Construct a cold frame to get early crops going. Later it can be used for ridge cucumbers, courgettes and other heat lovers.
Traditional wooden cold frames
• Go through your shed and remove any out of date and discontinued chemicals. Your local recycling centre should be able to help you dispose of them safely.
• If you still have some digging to do and your soil is a heavy clay type, dig in Vitax Clay Breaker. This flocculates the clay particles and improves the soil structure so that it is easier to cultivate it in future years.