Even with the cold weather, some seeds can be sown in February to get a jump start on the year if you can keep them undercover and with a little warmth. Propagators and greenhouses offer some protection from frost, but a window sill which catches the sun can be just as good.
I have a 6×8 high eve greenhouse and a heated bed to help the seeds to germinate and keep the frost at bay.
Vegetables to start off under cover
Some vegetables are hardier than others and can survive a frost, but they benefit from being started off with a little extra care.
- Onion seeds and sets can be started off in module seed trays to help it get a good start. Onions are one of my favourite crops. They are easy to grow and store. I grow them all year round for two harvests a year.
- Peas can be sown undercover give a great early crop. I find homegrown peas much sweeter than the ones bought in a shop and, if picked young, are a great addition to a spring salad.
- Broccoli can be sown this time of year undercover, but I have not had much luck with this vegetable over the years. I’ve found it takes a fair amount of care for a crop which has a limited time to harvest before it spoils. I plan to try to grow this again this year to learn how to look after it well.
- Kale is a hardy vegetable which can be sown in February. It’s not my favourite veg to eat, but it does come with some good health benefits and may get added to a smoothie or a meal when I decide to get fit and lose some weight later in the year.
- Leeks are a great vegetable which can be sown now in a greenhouse or a windowsill. Leeks have a special place in my heart as I would get some from my wife’s grandfather before he died. I always enjoyed visiting him by the North Norfolk coast and spending time walking around his vegetable patch. Leeks are amazingly hardy and a great addition to the veg patch and keep well into the following winter.
- Spinach, especially the “cut and grow again” variety, is worth having in your garden. It wouldn’t be my choice to have spinach in a salad, but many do. My wife makes spinach, fetta and red onion lattice, which I love. I pretty much grow the spinach in my garden for this one meal. The cut and grow again varieties make sure there is a constant supply of spinach in the garden for a small space. Just cut off the older leaves every so often if you haven’t eaten any for a while to get some fresh young leaves.
- Aubergines can be sown this time of the year. It’s not a plan I have had any experience with, but it can be sown from around mid-February in a location protected from frost. It would be worth waiting until the risk of frost has passed before transferring outside.
- Cucumbers are a great addition to the garden and can be sown under cover and protected from the frost. I have had some success with cucumbers here in Norfolk. They are a vine so you will need to make sure you can support it as it grows to keep the fruit off the ground; otherwise, it’ll get eaten or rot.
- Celery can be started in February. Like Aubergines, I haven’t had any experience growing this, but I have heard it is quite hard to grow it well here in the UK. It’s not a vegetable I like, but my wife eats it, and we put it in some dishes. I may have a go at growing this in future years but not this year.
- Chillies are great to grow at home. I grow these every year. They are a perfect addition to cooking fresh from the plant or dried and crushed. As a crop, they are very productive giving me fresh chillies towards the end of summer and, once harvested, store well once dried for use during winter.
- Lettuce sown in February will give you a nice early salad. I tend to sow “cut and grow again” varieties due to the limited space I have. I also find other types need harvesting simultaneously, resulting in a glut and lettuce does not store well.
- Peppers, like chillies, are another great addition to the garden and can be started in February. Homegrown peppers are significantly more tasty than ones bought from the shop. With a bit of care over winter, pepper plants can produce in future years.
- Tomatoes are present in my garden every year and are used in salads, soups and sauces. Sown in February with a little heat and protection from the frost, tomatoes will deliver a fantastic crop of fresh fruit later in the year.