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5 February 2013

February Tasks for the Vegetable Gardener

February is often the harshest winter month, though there are usually a few days when you can get wrapped up and get on with things outdoors.

You may have some crops still to harvest - I have some leeks that were planted right at the end of the planting season. Swedes and parsnips should be ready to lift - you may want to cover them with fleece or straw to make them easier to get at if we have a period of frost. Brussels sprouts and kale should also be ready.

February is all about preparation for the busy period ahead so if you haven't already given your greenhouse a good clean get outside and get it done!! Likewise with pots and seed trays which you will be needing shortly.

If you haven't finished digging over your plot you need to get on with it providing the soil isn't too wet. When you have dug over an area you may want to cover the soil with dark plastic sheeting, fleece or cloches to warm it up for a couple of weeks prior to planting. This should make things a bit more comfortable for your seeds.

If you are thinking of growing potatoes this year then your potato bed will benefit from a good application of compost or rotted manure. It is also time to start chitting your seed potatoes - just place them in a frost free place with indirect light and they will produce short strong shoots, getting them away to a faster start. I usually stand mine in seed trays but egg boxes are useful. There is some debate as to whether chitting is of any benefit but I will be chitting my first earlies.

Depending on the weather in your area you may be able to sow some seeds outdoors, though if the ground is waterlogged you will be better to leave it till March. Broad beans can be sown in February along with early peas for harvesting in May or June. I have recently started broad bean Aquadulce in pots in my unheated greenhouse - though according to the packet they could have been sown outdoors in November. I must be better-organised next November!

Other seeds that you may be able to sow directly in February include summer cabbage, leeks, radish and shallots, though the latter would benefit from the use of a cloche. Parsnips are traditionally planted now but you may get better germination by sowing in March.

The plants just mentioned can also be started in the greenhouse, as can aubergines, cauliflowers, celeriac and celery. You can also try for an early crop of lettuce, rocket and radish if you are partial to salad.

If you are planning to grow onions from seed you should start them off on a windowsill in a cool room as they need a temperatute of about 15 degrees to get going. You can widen the range of seeds you can plant now by using a propogator.

Whatever you choose to plant I wish you success in the coming growing season.
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