February is the month when ‘grow your own’ really gets going! We fondly remember the piles of potatoes, buckets of beans and crates of courgettes that our allotment bestowed upon us last year. It really is true what they say: nothing from a supermarket can touch home-grown produce in terms of flavour. And we’re already looking forward to this year’s haul of sweet tomatoes, juicy sweetcorn, crunchy radishes… well, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what to grow.
So what crops do well with an early start, in these chilly days of February? Well, the ground’s still cold, especially if you’re on heavy clay soil, which takes longer to warm up. So for most crops you’re looking at sowing under glass. That may be a greenhouse, but a cold frame or cloche also offers protection from the worst of the weather. And of course, there’s always the good old ‘sunny window-sill’.
Here’s some ideas for what to sow this month:
Outdoors (with the protection of a cold frame or cloche): early varieties of carrot, broad bean, parsnip and early beetroot.
Under glass: from mid-February, plant tomatoes, cucumbers and peas in the greenhouse.
Indoors: chillies, sweet peppers and aubergines need a long growing season to give them time to ripen, so get them started NOW! Also chit early varieties of potatoes, to prepare for planting in late March. If you’ve not planted potatoes before, this simply means placing the potatoes in a light and cool place to spout - egg cartons are perfect for this. Remove all but three or four of the potato ‘eyes’, leaving only the very strongest growths.
If you have light sandy soil and live in a relative mild area, February also brings a few extra options for outdoor planting:
Garlic, shallots, onions, salad onions, lettuces, radish, spinach, and summer cabbages can all be planted this month.
Whatever you're planting, you'll find some really useful tools in our Essential Tools collection: a planting line for perfect rows, planting rulers to get the right spacing, a dibblet to get the ideal depth, and lots more.
While it feels great to be tending the plot again, do bear in mind, though, that February usually has some sharp frosts up its sleeve to catch us unawares, and crops sown outdoors will need protection under a cloche or cold frame. It’s a month of obsessively checking the weather forecast – here’s a link, for a quick check now!
Just as an aside, don’t forget to get some sweet peas started, too. An obelisk of these sweet-scented beauties will take up very little space on the veg plot, and will tempt all kinds of insect life to visit you and your crops, to carry out the all-important work of pollinating. And as a bonus, the flowers are really pretty, too!
One final February note on grow-your-own: don’t forget that winter pruning is an important job this month, too. It’s pretty much your last opportunity to prune apple and pear trees before the sap rises and spring growth starts. Also it’s time to cut back red and white currants and gooseberries, to give them space for strong growth in the season ahead.
So get planting in February, and prepare to enjoy the fruits of your labours.