What to do in your allotment in February
Written by Lee Senior
As February progresses, allotments up and down the country are gradually waking from their winter slumber. It won’t be long now until spring, and I love the sense of anticipation that comes from lengthening days and increasing warmth. It’s also potato chitting time which further increases the excitement! If you haven’t already done so, now is the perfect time to purchase seeds and seed potatoes for your plot.
It’s thrilling 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. If you’re overwintering any plants or seedlings, do keep a watchful eye for frost in the greenhouse or cold frame. Cover the plants with fleece or layers of newspaper or cardboard. I’ve used all sorts of things over the years as emergency frost protection, including old curtains and towels! I’m also a big fan of eco heaters for small areas, provided you have an electricity supply. Happy growing!
- Sweet peas can be sown this month. Try ‘True Fragrance’ for a super strong scent or ‘Long Stemmed Mix’ for cutting and displaying indoors.
- Pinch out your overwintered sweetpea seedlings.
- Half-hardy annuals such as cosmos ‘Sonata Dwarf Mix’, bedding geraniums and marigolds can be sown in gentle heat towards the end of the month. It’s important to offer ongoing frost protection and provide enough heat and light.
- Sow a packet of Marigold ‘Fantasia Mix’ at your plot. These pretty blooms attract beneficial predators such as hoverflies, and help to keep unwanted pests in check.
- Alyssum ‘Wandering Star Mix’ is another annual predator mix that can be sown now. Attracting ladybirds, it’s a good, fragrant, ground cover plant that also looks great in tubs and baskets too.
- As soon as your early daffodils come into bud, cut a few to enjoy in a vase inside.
- If, like me, you grow asparagus from seed, then this is the time of year to start sowing, provided you can supply the minimum requirement of 65F for germination. Alternatively, asparagus crowns are a quick way to establish a new asparagus bed. The asparagus ‘Continuity Collection’ is ideal for cropping over a longer period.
- Pea ‘Proval’ or ‘Early Onward’ are both excellent early varieties which can be sown under glass or cold frame this month.
- Early broad beans can also be sown under cover. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ remains my timeless favourite.
- There are a number of other long season crops that can be sown in February in a heated propagator or on a warm south-facing windowsill. These include aubergines, tomatoes, sweet peppers and chillies.
- 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. For cherry tomatoes, ‘Gardener’s Delight’ is still my favourite.
- Plant onion sets into modular seed trays this month to encourage them to start producing strong roots for the season ahead.
- Plant spring garlic bulbs, ready to harvest in autumn.
- Bare root fruit trees or bushes can be planted out until the end of March. Avoid waterlogged or frozen conditions.
- 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.
- If your allotment has a dedicated fruit area, a fruit cage is a good idea to prevent birds from stealing your crop.
- Prune the old canes of autumn-fruiting raspberries down to the ground with a sharp pair of secateurs.
- It’s not too late to use a rhubarb forcer, making your first crops extra sweet.
- 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.
- It pays to warm up the soil in any beds earmarked for the sowing or planting of early crops. Cloches or a straw-based type of mulch can be effective. Alternatively, cover the soil with polythene. This may shift sowing time forward by a few weeks giving you a head start!
- 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.
- 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.
- Clean greenhouse panes to remove algae and allow maximum light to reach your developing seedlings.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Suttons Seeds recommend these areas which may also be of interest.
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