We are now into the second month of the year! The days are slowly getting longer and more sunshine is filling our gardens. The weather can still be cold and wet. We had snow this morning, but the excitement of nearing Spring is growing. There are lots of gardening jobs for February and if completed properly now, you can expect lots of success throughout the rest of the year!
Even if you have never done a singe day of gardening in your life, give a few of these jobs a go! Maybe you want to have a go at growing your own food for the first time, so start now and have fun!
Check stored seeds
Now is a good time to get out all of your seeds and check them over. I like to arrange mine in order of when to sow. I also make sure none have gone damp and mouldy. I tend to not take much notice of Use By dates, but germination rates of seeds do dramatically drop once past these dates. By all means, sow but be prepared for a lower success rate! I have sown tomato seeds 5 years past their BB date, less than half germinated but half is still better than binning the whole lot!
Find a nice storage solution for your seeds. A cardboard box doesn’t give much protection from the elements, nature and pests but a decent storage tin keeps the mice out and protects against moisture.
If you don’t yet own any seeds, pop along to your local Wilko’s. Seeds sold in Wilko’s are super cheap compared to garden centres, and I have always had an excellent success rate using them! Only buy what you know you will definitely want to eat. Don’t go crazy and buy every packet on the shelves, instead choose simple vegetables to grow. Start small and you’ll find growing-your-own a lot easier. For first timer’s I recommend tomatoes, peas, potatoes and beans.
You’ll probably want to grow potatoes this year. Why? Because they are super easy to grow and you don’t need lots of space. You can grow potatoes in dug beds in the garden or in containers. You can even grow them in bags!
You will likely buy your seed potatoes this month. Seed potatoes are not actually little seeds, but rather just small potatoes! Some people swear by chitting their potatoes first prior to planting to give them a head start. Some people don’t bother. Personally I like to chit my spuds. Maybe it’s habit, but I always seem rather lucky with a heavy crop each time I do.
‘Chitting’ is the process of allowing your potatoes to sprout before planting. Simply place your seed potatoes in an egg box, or small cardboard box and place in cool but frost free place, that gets some light but not too much. You will soon notice shoots emerging from your potatoes. Don’t be tempted to plant them though just yet. Wait until all risk of frost have passed, or you risk killing your plants or reducing the amount of potatoes you produce.
Cover the soil
The second half of winter is a good time to start getting a head start on Spring. Covering up the soil is useful for a few reasons. It warms up the soil, giving seedlings a head start when the time to planting comes and it reduced the amount of weeds that will pop up everywhere.
Adding organic matter can also warm up the soil, as well as adding vital nutrients to the ground- giving your vegetables a much needed boost. As the organic matter rots, it also produces heat thus warming up the soil even more. Covering the ground in black plastic sheeting traps heat and blocks out light, killing off any weeds. Simply weigh down the plastic at the edges with bricks or logs to stop any winter gales ripping it off. Remove in Spring.
Unfortunately plastic is vile, and very bad for our planet. So think about if you really want to use plastics in the garden. Personally I avoid using plastic to cover the soil as much as I can and only use it in areas that would benefit from this extra help. Garden fleece can also be used but does also act as a mini greenhouse, letting light through… meaning weeds won’t be killed off!
What to plant
- Bare root trees – Providing the soil isn’t frozen.
- Peas – Grow in a greenhouse or on windowsills.
- Garlic – Straight into the soil, outside.
- Carrots – Sow direct, but protect with cloches.
- Chilli Peppers – Require a long growing season. Start these in a propagator or warm windowsill.
- Aubergines – Start in an unheated greenhouse or cool windowsill.
- Cabbages – Best sown at the end of the month.
- Onions – Also best sown at the end of the month, direct into the outside soil.
- Peppers – Ideal to start them in a heated propagator or sunny windowsill.
- Cauliflower – Sow in cell trays in an unheated greenhouse.
- Brussel Sprouts – Start in small pots or cell trays in an unheated greenhouse.
Other than the trees, onions, chilli’s, garlic, aubergines and peppers the rest of the sowings can be planted every 2 weeks to ensure that you have a steady long harvest.
My favourite February plant- Hardy Cyclamen
Cyclamen are a joy to grow and just keep giving. They are self seeding and despite your plants starting small, then soon grow into plentiful clusters that can be lifted, divided and replanted. I have some in my front garden that have been in flower for over a year(!) and are looking at their very best at the moment.
They prefer well drained soil and grow well underneath shrubs. They don’t like sitting in wet soil, so when planting add a handful of fine gravel into the planting hole.
A cheap plant to buy, so take a look at these adorable little plants in your local garden centre. They wont hurt your wallet, but brighten up any garden!
Missed my January jobs? Read what you can do in the garden in January here.