Please see monthly list of things to do in the garden in Feb.Also we have been getting our community garden ready by putting in our own compost from all the green waste which was produced in the garden and by some of the local residents who have permission to use one of our 3 compost bins.This was dug into the 4 main growing beds and then covered with straw to keep the weeds from growing and also to let moisture and air circulate and helps warm up the soil,then covered with netting to prevent the straw from blowing away.We can plant through the netting when we start growing our vegetables.
Allotment & Vegetable Gardening in February
February is often the coldest winter month although spring is just around the corner. More than any other month, what to do in February will depend on your local conditions. It's usually better to hold off than try to sow in cold waterlogged ground that will rot seeds rather than germinate them.
Leeks may well be standing ready but if a long freeze seems likely you can dig some up and heel them in to dug ground for easy access – unless we have deep snow!
Parsnips, turnips and swedes in the ground can come up when you are ready, cover with fleece or straw to stop them freezing solid into the ground.
The cabbage family should be providing some sustenance with early purple sprouting, kale and Brussels sprouts being available. Beet leaves (perpetual spinach) and chards will be available.
Other crops you may have: salsify, scorzonera, chicory, endive, celeriac, celery and Jerusalem artichokes.
General Jobs in the Garden
If you have finished all the major tasks, such as digging over, creating leafmould heaps etc you will not have a lot to do in February but if like most of us you are scrambling to keep up, this is your last chance before spring.
Double check the greenhouse, ensure the glass is firmly secured and replace any cracked panes etc. If you've not managed to give it a thorough clean, now is the time before it is pressed into service.
Check last year's potato bed for any volunteers (left over small potatoes) and remove them to avoid passing on disease problems and blight.
You're going to be using your pots and seed trays next, so this is a good opportunity to wash out and sterilise them so you seedlings will get off to the best possible start.
This years potato bed will benefit from a good application of compost or rotted manure that can be forked in or rotovated in to get them away.
You can cover soil with dark plastic sheeting, fleece or cloches to warm it up for a couple of weeks before you start to sow and plant.
Sowing, Planting and Cultivating
As stated above, what you sow outdoors will depend on local conditions. If suitable you can sow your broad beans in February along with early peas such as Feltham First and Meteor for a May / June harvest.
Conventional advice is to sow parsnips now but I believe their reputation for poor germination is due to being placed in cold wet soil and I have had much better germination by sowing in March.
Jerusalem artichokes and shallots can be planted now, although shallots will benefit from covering with a cloche.
If you have a greenhouse, you can get an early crop of lettuce, rocket and radish away in there. You can utilise cloches outdoors but success will be more dependent on the weather.
Time to sow your summer cabbages such as Greyhound and Primo, as well as turnips and spinach.
Onions from seed should be started now. They need about 15 degrees to get them going so you may be best using the windowsill in a cool room to start them off.
With a heated propagator or using windowsills you can start off aubergine and peppers. Once again, I have found better results by waiting until March, which I put down to day length but many people feel this is the right time.
There has been talk about whether it is necessary to chit potatoes but it is too early to plant them and if left in their bags, seed potatoes will produce long sprouts that will break off at planting time anyway.
Chitting is simply placing the potatoes in a frost free place with indirect light and will produce short strong shoots, getting them away to a faster start. You can use egg cartons or seed trays to keep them in. Don't forget to label them so you don't get confused as to variety come planting time.
I read that spraying with seaweed solution at fortnightly intervals while chitting will improve the crop but I didn't notice any benefit myself.
With main crop potatoes, I reduce the number of shoots to three, or four on larger seed potatoes, so that they produce larger potatoes rather than masses of smaller ones.
Planting & Pruning
There is still time to finish planting fruit trees and bushes, especially raspberries and other cane fruits.
Early this month you can prune apple and pear trees while they are still dormant. It's also time to prune gooseberries and currants. With currants shorten the sideshoots to just one bud and remove old stems from the centre of the bushes.
Protection & Forcing
If you are in a sheltered area and grow early flowering fruit trees like nectarines, peaches and apricots, protect the flowers with horticultural fleece against frost. You can also use old net curtains for this job.
Rhubarb can be forced for an early crop of the sweetest stalks. Just cover a crown or two with buckets or even an upturned large pot and insulate the outside with straw or compost for added heat. The stalks will grow in the dark.
The drawback is that this takes a lot out of the crown and it won't recover for a couple of years. The professional growers in the famous Rhubarb Triangle dig up their crowns and take them into huge dark warm sheds to produce forced rhubarb. Once the season ends these exhausted crowns are discarded as it will take them longer to recover than to grow new crowns.