February has been here for a couple of weeks, and we are heading towards spring. There are still things to do while the weather is cold, and most plants lay dormant, waiting for the ground to warm. February is usually a month of chilly mornings, hard frosts, and gloomy days; not much will germinate in the soil or without help. While the temptation may be there to get ahead and start to sow seeds, a bit more patience will pay off and give you some extra time to finish off winter tasks.
If you haven’t already, it is an excellent time to sort through any seeds you have leftover from previous years. Seeds will come with a best before date, and I tend to replace anything over 3 years old, test seeds that are two years old and rely on new and one-year-old seeds for my essential plants. If you want to test to see if the seeds are ok, you can try a germination test. Lay 10- 20 seeds out on a damp piece of kitchen paper and see if they germinate. With a germination rate of above 50%, it may be worth keeping them for the coming year.
This is the time of year I will also plan what I will grow and order new seeds to replace old ones or add new varieties to my stock. I buy my seed from Sutton Seeds, but there are seed exchanges in local communities which could provide opportunities to pick up new seeds and share unwanted seeds with others.
Towards the end of February, you can start to sow Tomatoes, Peppers, Aubergine, Peas, leeks and Cucumbers in a greenhouse or windowsill. Use small pots in a heated propagator, warm room, or heated propagation bench.
Late February is when the annual ritual of potatoes chitting can start. I tend to chit my potatoes in a spare room, but if you don’t have this space, a greenhouse or shed near the window would work just as well, but make sure they are protected from frost.
We are now entering the hungry season when there is little food on offer in the veg patch, but if you planted winter crops such as winter cabbage and leaks, they would be available to harvest over the coming weeks.
It is also time to prepare the veg patch for this year’s crops. If you haven’t already, try to get some well-rotted manure or compost onto the ground to give it time to mix in with the soil. You can double dig to work the material into the ground or use no-dig methods by using compost as a mulch, something I plan to try over the next few seasons. It is also an excellent time to place cloches over the areas you will be sowing directly into the ground. The cloche will trap heat from the sun and help warm up the soil.
While February is still cold, dark and wet, the days are lengthening, and the promise of spring creeps in when the sun breaks through the clouds. Winter has always been a time when I would retreat to the warmth of the house, but the more I learn about gardening and growing my own food, the more I see winter as a time to rest my garden and prepare it and myself of the work of the spring and summer to come.
If you have any tips and tasks for February gardening, why not comment below!