February brings hope.
At last we see the new shoots of life emerging from the ground. Spotting the first snowdrops poking up from icy ground is always a welcome sight, quickly followed by Devon primroses and then cheery daffodils waking up from their hedgerow hibernations.
At last Spring has officially started and we are halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
I think February is a horrible month for gardeners... the seed orders are done, the plans are drawn, the beds are mulched and we are so desperate to get started... but it’s still too cold and light levels are still too low. The best advice in February is, step away from the seed packets! Lank leggy seedlings are not worth it. That said, things like aubergines, chillis and melons do like an early start as they need a really long growing season but only if you have grow lights to get them going. Most things will be better if we can be patient and wait a little bit longer.
In the meantime sketch out yet another plan for your allotment garden and enjoy long woodland walks with everything waking up around you.
By February if you have an established rhubarb plant it will be starting to wake up. You can place a rhubarb forcer over a section of the plant to 'force' the plant. Forcing a vegetable basically means taking away it's access to light so the only way it can grow is to take energy stored within the plant itself. It's fairly brutal and exhausting for the plant, so you wouldn't want to force your entire plant. The results are fascinating. You end up with pale pink, really long stems that have a distinctly sweeter and more delicate flavour.
An upturned black bucket weighed down with bricks would do the job. I am lucky enough to have a Victorian clay forcer. It will take 4-6 weeks. I just wait until the tops of the rhubarb stems are virtually pushing the lid of my forcer off.
With the help of some grow lights there are a few things I sow in February. I have one large sunny windowsill, but it's still not enough daylight hours to avoid those dreaded week leggy seedings, so I have a couple of grow lights hanging to lengthen the day. There are some things that benefit from an early start as they need a long growing season - chilli, aubergine, melon and I even start a couple of tomatoes off.
Flower wise, Antirrhinums (aka Snapdragons) love an early start also on the warm windowsill.
Mid month the windowsill sowings expand to celery, leeks and more flowers such as asters and cosmos.
Towards the end of the month the cold frame gets a first sowing of beetroot, cabbage, kale, lettuce, chard, coriander, parsley and dill.
It's hard not to get carried away!
I always sow broad beans in the autumn, they are really hardy and seem to suffer less from whitefly or chocolate spot. But they can also be sown now. I tend to pop a few Crimson flowered ones into the ground in February, because their flowers are so lovely.