I find February to be a month full of anticipation! Anticipation for all the things to come and an impatience to get started. It is very much an in-between time where it is not quite warm or light enough to sow yet we are starting to prepare none the less. As I am writing this, it is snowing outside my window which shows that winter still holds us firmly in its grip! I have not yet had much opportunity to visit the allotment as the biting cold keeps me at home! However, as the month moves on it will start to warm up and there will be plenty to do!
Sowing, Planting and Harvesting!
Now is a time when we should be preparing for the sowing season which will hit hard and fast in March and April. Some things can be sown in February especially those greenhouse crops that need a longer season.
- Chilli peppers, sweet peppers and greenhouse tomatoes can be started this month but do check the instructions on your seed packet as some tomatoes are best left until March. For best results, I start mine off in a heated propagator placed in a room that gets the most light.
- Early peas and broad beans can be sown now to get a early crop in May. Remember to check your soil conditions before planting outside as peas and beans can rot in waterlogged soil and hungry mice will be on the look out. If in doubt, sow indoors and transplant when the soil conditions are better.
- Root vegetables such as beetroot and carrots can be sown this month for early crops
- Hardy salads and lettuces can be sown now to help fill the hungry gap in April/May!
- Some brassicas can be started in February too including early season Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli and some cabbages.
You still have time to replenishing, replacing or extending your fruit garden.
- Plant bare rooted fruit trees and bushes now whilst it is still cold before the leaf and flower buds open in the spring.
- Bare rooted strawberry runners and raspberry canes can be planted now.
- You still have this (extremely cold) month to plant garlic cloves if conditions are dry. Don’t plant cloves when it is wet otherwise they will rot in the ground.
- February also offers the chance to get shallots in the ground if you didn’t have a chance in Autumn.
- You still have time to start forcing rhubarb. Simply cover the clump with a large bucket, pot or bin. Excluding the light, forces them into growth.
Although we are marching steadily towards the hungry gap, February still offers a good harvest from the allotment or garden.
- Brussels sprouts may still be cropping if you planted late seaon varieties and may continue to crop into March.
- If you are a lover of chicory, then this can be harvested now too.
- Kale, winter savoy cabbages and Sprouting broccoli can be harvested
- Leeks are still in abundance in my allotment and are a perfect vegetable for warming soups and stews at this time of year.
- Parsnips that are still in the ground can be harvested. Once the weather starts to warm up, the root will start to put all that sweet goodness into producing flowers and seed so don’t forget to eat them!
- If you have planted hardy lettuces over the winter then you can harvest these for a delicious winter salad.
Jobs on the plot
February can be a busy months in terms of preparation for the sowing season so there are a good few things that you can do around the plot to get ready.
- Gather all your sowing materials together. Make sure you have plenty of labels, pots, seed trays etc. Also make sure your pots have been cleaned out to prevent the transmission of pests and diseases.
- Buy in seed and potting composts, vermiculite, perlite, fertilisers etc for sowing both in and outdoors.
- Prepare your soil ready for planting by raking over beds that had organic matter added in over the winter. You can add a general fertiliser by scattering it evenly over the surface and raking in. In beds where you are growing brassicas you can apply lime to raise the pH of the soil and keep it neutral or slightly alkaline. You can cover soil back up if you wish to help warm the soil and prevent winter rains from leaching the nutrients from the soil.
- It is also worthwhile to sort and tidy your shed and sharpen your tools ready for the new season!
- In the fruit garden, it is not to late to do winter pruning. Make sure apples, pears, currants, gooseberries, autumn raspberries and blueberries are given a good prune to encourage new shoots and keep their shape.
- Give any perennial herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables a good mulch and top dressing of fertiliser to help them for the coming season.
- Check over polytunnels and greenhouse to make sure they are in tip top condition and haven’t suffered from the winter conditions. Repair any glass and make sure the glass is clean to let maximum light in.
- If you have a polytunnel, then you can try planting a few early potatoes to help extend the season. You may have to cover with fleece if night time temperatures are forecast to be low.
- Some early flowering fruits such as apricots, peaches and nectarines may need their blooms to be protected from the cold and frost. Where possible move trees to a protected location and cover with fleece overnight. Remember to remove the fleece during the day to allow pollinating insects to do their job.
- If you start any early outdoor sowings of carrots, peas or other crops they may benefit from the protection of cloches or winter fleece to keep the cold off.
- If you grow chives, established clumps can be dug up, split and replanted to increase your stock.
There is also plenty of jobs to do indoors to prepare for the coming season.
- There is still time to sort through seed tins and discard any old and out of date packets of seed. Out of date packets of seed will have unreliable germination. Best to get in new, fresh seed.
- If you have bought your seed potatoes then now is the time to start chitting. Pop the potatoes in the egg cartons with the eyes facing up and place in a cool, light location such as a windowsill. You will soon see little shoots sprouting from the tuber. If you haven’t bought your potatoes then now is a good time to do so.
- Plenty of seeds can be sown indoors at this time of year (see list above). I have a tray tidy where I do all my sowing and potting indoors as I am not lucky enough to have a greenhouse.
Saffron and Leek Risotto (Serves 4)
- 40g butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 280g risotto rice
- 1 tsp crumbled saffron threads
- 1.2 litres simmering vegetable stock
- 115g freshly grated parmesan
- salt and pepper
- 2 leeks, sliced
- squeeze of lemon juice
Melt 1 tbsp of butter with the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the rice and mix to coat in the oil and butter. Cook until the grains are translucent. Dissolve the saffron in 4 tbsps of hot stock and add to the rice. Add the remaining stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy. Season with salt and pepper
Meanwhile, stir fry the sliced leeks in a tsp of butter in a frying pan until softened and starting to crisp slightly. Be careful not to burn the leeks.
Remove the risotto from the heat and add the remaining butter. Mix well, then stir in the parmesan until it melts. Add the leeks and then season with lemon juice, adding a small squeeze and tasting as you go. Serve immediately.
I hope keep warm in February and that your just as excited as I am about the coming season!