What to do in your allotment in February

First Early Seed Potatoes 'Swift' from Suttons

Written by Lee Senior

As February progresses, I love the sense of anticipation that comes from lengthening days, increasing warmth and the knowledge that winter will soon be over. This is the month I really suffer from itchy seed sowing fingers! I’m having to remind myself that patience is a virtue and there’s still plenty of time for bad weather. Next month, seed sowing starts in earnest and I can’t wait!

It’s exciting to be on the cusp of a brand new sowing and growing year. I’ve cleaned my greenhouse ready to get started – good light levels are so important to stop ‘leggy’ seedlings. At home, I’ve made sure my seeds are all ordered for next month’s flurry of sowing and at the plot I’ll be tidying up and getting everything ready. If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to purchase seeds and seed potatoes for your plot. It pays to get ahead and not leave it to the last minute. Some years I’ve managed to get my first early potatoes in the ground as early as late March. Happy growing!

Allotment flowers in February

  • Sow sweetpea seeds in root-trainer seed trays now. Try ‘True Fragrance’ for a super strong scent or ‘Long Stemmed Mix’ for cutting and displaying indoors.
  • Pinch out your overwintered sweetpea seedlings.
  • As soon as your early daffodils come into bud, cut a few to enjoy in a vase inside.

Allotment vegetables in February

  • I’ve dug out my electric propagator from hibernation ready to sow aubergine ‘F1 Moneymaker’ seeds. Alternatively, ‘F1 Pinstripe’ is great for patio containers. Aubergines require a long growing season, similar to peppers and tomatoes.
  • My favourite sweet pepper variety is the classic and dependable ‘Rainbow Mix’. Equally good is ‘Solario’ which is available as grafted jumbo plug plants.
  • If chillies are your thing, ‘Hot Thai’ won’t let you down! It’s excellent for making chilli powder too.
  • Tomatoes are one of my ‘must have’ foods and I’ve tried dozens of varieties over the years. Although not new, ‘F1 Shirley’ takes some beating for reliability and flavour. Shirley is available as a grafted tomato plant too. For cherry tomatoes, ‘Gardeners Delight’ is still my favourite.
  • Chit your seed potatoes in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. This speeds up growth when you plant them out next month.
  • Sow pea ‘Early Onwards’ this month in modular seed trays. Keep the trays in an outdoor sheltered spot like a potting shed or greenhouse for germination.
  • Sow beetroot ‘Bulls Blood’ seeds outdoors in rows and protect with a long cloche.
  • Plant onion sets into modular seed trays this month to encourage them to start producing strong roots for the season ahead. Try Onion ‘Sturon’ for a brown onion with plenty of flavour, or Onion ‘Electric’ for a good yield of red bulbs suitable for pickling.
  • Plant spring garlic bulbs, ready to harvest in autumn.
  • Toward the end of the month, start hardening-off any hardy vegetable plants that have been raised under cover, ready for planting out in March.

Allotment fruit in February

  • Continue to plant bare-rooted fruit trees and bushes as long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
  • Add a layer of well-rotted manure or multi-purpose compost around the base of your fruit trees and bushes to give them a boost before growth begins in earnest.
  • Avoid pruning plum trees in winter as this can allow the destructive silver leaf disease to strike.
  • If your allotment has a dedicated fruit area, consider erecting a fruit cage to protect it from birds. Now’s the best time to do it while there are no leaves to damage.
  • It’s not too late to force rhubarb, making your first crops extra sweet.
  • Pot on a few young strawberry plants to grow in the cold greenhouse. They will crop earlier than their garden counterparts.

Crops to harvest in February

  • Keep harvesting winter vegetables like Brussels sprouts and leeks. I’ve just used the last of my leeks which were delicious stir fried with Brussels Sprouts. My sprouts are still going strong and it’s good practice to harvest them from the bottom up.
  • Harvest any early purple sprouting broccoli as the florets appear. My purple sprouting broccoli began to crop in the first week of February and seems to get earlier every year. When I was a student in the 90s, the earliest the plants ever cropped was late March. Perhaps this is a sign of the milder winters we often get nowadays.
  • Parsnips and swede should still be cropping nicely.
  • Jerusalem artichokes are a lovely root to harvest this month. Ultra dependable and very underrated, they can be harvested from December-March and make a fine temporary hedge in summer, growing over 6ft tall.
  • Kale and winter savoy cabbage are also in season.

General February allotment jobs

  • Recent storms have been quite destructive damaging many sheds, greenhouses, polytunnels and fences. Make repairs as quickly as possible. Living hedges make the best kind of wind-resistant boundary.
  • Clean greenhouse panes to remove algae and allow maximum light to reach your developing seedlings.
  • Remove the lower leaves of your sprout plants as they yellow and wither. Keep all brassicas covered with bird proof netting and check this periodically as the wind can dislodge it.
  • Attract bugs and pollinating insects to the allotment by installing bug houses and growing more flowering plants. Kids love helping to make solitary bee hotels.
  • Warm up the ground by putting out cloches or covering the soil with black plastic. This may shift sowing time forward by a few weeks giving you a head start!
  • Keep an eye on weeds this month – it’s easier to pull them up when they’re small!
  • Stay off the soil if the allotment is waterlogged. Scaffolding planks help to spread your weight and make good pathways when the soil is wet.

Planning ahead

  • Order your second early potato varieties for planting in March. My windowsill is now in active use chitting my first early potatoes ‘Foremost’ and the slightly later first early ‘Charlotte’. Use your brightest window and stand the tubers in trays with the eyes pointing upwards. Protect them from too much heat from radiators.
  • March is the perfect seed sowing month, so make sure you’ve got your vegetable seeds ordered.
  • Choose a dry day to lightly dig over an area of your plot that you’ve earmarked for early crops. Next month it can be covered.
Lead image: First Early Seed Potatoes ‘Swift’ from Suttons
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About Lee Senior
Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn’t resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton” says Lee. “It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn’t have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don’t try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; ‘Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows’ which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book ‘Walking in the Aire’, features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.