Finally the end of winter is in sight and within just a few weeks the first shoots of spring will start to appear across the UK.
it’s not over yet though late frosts are extremely common and often February can end up showing us some of the worst winter weather going.
However this doesn’t mean all of your gardening activities have to stop, there is plenty of things you can prepare for spring and even though it’s getting a little late you can still select some great fruit trees to plant. Container grown is the best choice for this time of year although bare-root fruit plants will still establish.
As with all of our advice you may need to tweak your schedule depending on local weather, if the ground is still waterlogged or even frozen you should avoid sowing anything until your confident that the soil will support new plant life.
Chitting is a subject which comes with a great debate attached, in a similar way to searing meat before stewing, some say it makes all the difference others notice no difference, the main thing to take from this is that it does not harm the potatoes either way so if you have the time and resources you should go ahead and do it anyway.
Place the potatoes in a cool, frost-free environment, the room should be light, but you should ensure your seeds avoid bright, direct sunlight which might hamper their development. This process allows the initial roots and shoots to form on the seed prior to planting out later in the spring. Personally I think the process is worth the extra time and effort, I find it makes planting out easier.
February is not the best time to plant most vegetables outdoors, however there are some exceptions if soil conditions in your area allow for it. As the soil warms up and the risk of frost decreases you may want to consider planting early peas and broad beans for harvest during May and June. Excellent for an early summer treat!
There are other vegetables which you can plant and germinate towards the end of February, these include shallots which can be given a helping hand with the use of some protection.
So that covers outdoors what about greenhouses?
If you are lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of a greenhouse or coldframe you will be well aware of the advantages, however those with a cool spare room can also achieve similar results.
You want to be sowing radish, lettuce or rocket, if using a windowsill ensure there is plenty of sunlight to avoid weak, stretched seedlings and also keep an eye on the temperature, simple problems can be easily avoided if you know what your looking for.
Deciding to invest in a greenhouse, grow-house or small polytunnel doesn’t have to be expensive, there are lots of affordable options available at your local garden centre, pop in and ask next time your close. A cheap growhouse is often the best “starter” option.
With the use of a heated electric propagator you can start growing more adventurous vegetables (or fruits) including varieties of different spicy chillies and sweet peppers, both excellent additions to “grow your own” recipes. If you want to give these a little head start a small grow bulb can help you establish seedlings more easily.
Always ensure the light is placed directly above the plant. The light should be approx 10cm from the top of the seedling, but remember as a general rule too far away and the seed will stretch, too close and the small-vulnerable leaves will scorch. You don’t have to go crazy buying expensive growing equipment an old lamp and a “cool-white” bulb won’t cost the earth and it’s a good way to kick start the growth before we plant them on later.
Remember: Be very careful when using electricity in grow areas, you need to be sensible with how you power the light, make sure the plug is ABOVE the height of the bulb and as far away as possible, this ensures there is minimal risk when you water your seedlings. Never use a misting sprayer around any plants which are under a light, this can also be dangerous. Use common sense and be mindful at all times.
Finally in February we can also look at forcing and growing Rhubarb, it requires nothing more than a change in light and heat conditions to get it going so don’t worry about it not falling into the not organic category no chemicals are used.
It’s not even a difficult process, simply take the Rhubarb crown and place it under something which will block the light, personally I use an upside bucket but I have seen other methods used. It’s a great idea to insulate the outside of the bucket using an insulating material, a personal favourite of mine is to use straw but again it’s up to you, some prefer sheets of plant fleece.
We hope to put together a full guide shortly to cover this subject.
So that covers most of the Vegetable jobs for February, remember depending on conditions you may need to adjust the timing’s slightly and allow for local frosts to pass before some of these projects can be undertaken. If you get stuck let us know, we would love to know why and we can help if you think we have missed something important.