It's great to make a start to a new season of growing your own food. However, most crops are going to need some protection until the air and - just as importantly - the soil is warmer. So this month there's some windowsill sowing, a bit of planting, finishing off pruning and some timely maintenance before we all get very busy on our patch!
Home grown food
• Sow fast maturing salads! Early lettuce seed sown on the windowsill can be planted out later for those really early crops. Tom Thumb is a good tasty variety to grow.
• 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 even less.
• Buy your seed potatoes and set them up to shoot this month. Early varieties such as ‘Rocket’ will benefit but later varieties will yield better too. 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’.
• Continue planting shallots but only plant onion sets if the soil is warm enough. However, you can sow onion seed now. All prefer soil that hasn’t been used to grow onions, leeks or shallots for several years before and also a well manured plot.
• Lots of other vegetables can be sown now. Sow 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, cover a patch of cultivated soil with a sheet of clear polythene. This will trap in the sun's heat so that you can get going with earlier sowing outside.
• You should be finishing apple and pear tree pruning 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.
• February is the last month when you can safely plant bare root trees, bushes and fruit canes. After this month it is 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 to be painted make certain that the paint you use is plant safe.
• Construct a cold frame to get early crops going. Later it can be used for ridge cucumbers, courgettes and other heat lovers.
• Go through your shed and remove any out of date and discontinued chemicals. Your Local Authority 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.