February allotment garden

Last revised: 20 December 2017

Seasonal reminders, hints and tips.

During February local conditions at the allotment site are very likely wet, if not saturated. Unless you are using raised beds or an area of ground above the path and water line, avoid planting into the main plot area or working on it until conditions improve.

However, the cold weather that would limit growth of weeds does not persist. Any opportunity to remove weeds or supress growth by covering over will be worthwhile.

Potatoes

Seed potatoes become available in shops or from the allotment supply. Custom suggests planting at Easter. Seed potatoes respond to daylight and warmer conditions by producing shoots. This chitting process can be controlled by put them in a cool, frost free place where they get some light but not direct sunlight. The potatoes will then grow short stubby shoots to get them off to a fast start when planted out.

Early sowing

When selecting seeds consider length of time each variety may take to mature. Some varieties will be quicker than others. Beans and peas are good examples of these options.

Direct sow broad beans and early peas in February for harvest in May or June. The best chance to start your peas is in the greenhouse or a cold frame and plant out later. Broad beans do not seem to like transplanting.

Both broad beans and peas are good for succession planting. By spreading a monthly sowing through February to April for broad beans and through till July for peas you can get a regular supply of fresh produce.

Many people sow parsnips in February when the seed will benefit from cold conditions. However, beware of ground being too wet and seeds rotting. Wait until March or April for direct sowing. It is possible to start parsnip in small, deep pots and start off on cold place with good light. Planting the seedlings out when one to two inches tall, and taking great care not to disturb the roots.

Onions from seed should be started in February. They need about 15°C to get them going so you may be best using the windowsill in a cool room to start them off.

Greenhouse or home

If you have a greenhouse, try a crop of lettuce, rocket and radish.

Start sowing cabbages and other brassica, as well as swede, turnip and spinach to get small plants started before planting out in 6 to 8 weeks time.

Some people have been successful starting carrots in pots. The problem arises when transplanting disturbs the fine delicate roots which causes forked roots. If you don’t mind odd shaped carrot, this can be a method to get an early start.

Beetroot are shallow rooted and easier to transplant successfully.

Due to heavy ground conditions most people start leeks in pots. Similar to onion seeds they need a steady temperature to get going. Try covering with clear plastic bag and they should germinate in about 3 weeks, ready for planting out when chance of frost has passed.

Most of our allotment holders plant garlic and spring onions during October and November, but it is not too late to plant in pots or raised beds now. It would be worth covering with fleece to protect from frost.

Keep a watch on greenhouse sowing to cover during long freezing conditions, water lightly and check for slugs and snails looking for early meal.

With heating or using windowsills start off a few aubergine and peppers, chillies and tomatoes. Keep some seed back for later sowing to get succession and protect against failure of earlier sowing.

Young plants will become leggy unless growth is controlled. The stalk becomes too long and drains the seed energy before it can be planted out. Provide a place where young plants get all day sun, or make a reflector from tin foil.

Fruit tree and bushes

If conditions allow finish planting fruit trees and bushes, raspberries and other cane fruits. Be aware that the ground water level may still be high. Provide new plants will good supply of well rotted manure to supplement the loss of nitrogen in saturated soil.

Check and prune apple and pear trees while they are still dormant. Prune gooseberries and currants. With currants shorten the side-shoots to just one bud and remove old stems from the centre of the bushes.

Forcing Rhubarb

Rhubarb can be forced for an early crop of the sweetest stalks. Cover a crown with large bucket or upturned black bin and insulate the outside with straw or manure for added heat. The stalks will grow in the dark.

The drawback is that this takes a lot out of the rhubarb plant and it won’t recover for a couple of years.

Jobs on the Plot

If conditions allow finish digging over, creating leaf mould heaps, or digging in mulch to help speed soil improvement.

This years potato bed will benefit from a good application of compost or rotted manure that can be forked in or rotavated 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.

Harvest

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.

Parsnips 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 broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts still being available. Beet leaves (perpetual spinach) and chards may be available.