February may still be winter, but spring is definitely in sight. Here in Devon, the days are visibly lengthening, and my garden is slowly reawakening. Primroses, muscari and iris reticulata are in flower and, thankfully, the daffodils are strutting their jaunty stuff.
Wrap up warm and take advantage of any milder days by doing groundwork for the months ahead. This involves digging, weeding and mulching. And then weeding again. For respite, you could always take part in the Snowdrops National Garden Scheme and find a nearby venue to walk amongst some dazzling blooms. A cup of tea and slice of cake in the tearoom is also a good incentive to get out and about!
Looking for a cheeky little something to pop inside a Valentine’s Day card? How about a packet of flower seeds? Cheap, fun and sure to raise a smile – try Poppy Love Affair or some forget-me-not seeds.
From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.
– Katherine S. White
My top tasks for February include:
- Chit your Dobies seed potatoes by standing them in empty egg boxes or seed trays. Keep them somewhere light, cool but frost-free and they’ll be ready to plant out when the soil begins to warm up in March.
- For an early crop, sow tomato seeds, chilli seeds and sweet pepper seeds under cover now. But if in doubt, wait. It’s still very early, and seeds sown in March will quickly catch up.
- Sow some sweet pea seeds – no summer garden is complete without them!
- It’s not too late to sow onion seeds under cover.
- If the soil is dry and workable, now is the time to start direct sowing broad bean seeds outside. I like ‘Imperial Green Longpod’. Producing pods of about 38cm in length this is a heavy cropping bean so it’s worth spreading the sowing between now and April.
- Plant onion sets and shallots and Jerusalem Artichokes (if you’re brave enough!)
- Start a tray of Salad Leaves ‘Winter Mix’ to grow in the greenhouse or on a windowsill. You’ll be harvesting them in no time.
- Rhubarb crowns can be planted now. It’s such an easy crop to grow and the tasty stems have so many uses, ranging from crumble to gin!
- Digging over the vegetable plot this month will warm you up nicely and will break up any compaction and allow air to enter.
- Cut autumn-fruiting raspberry canes down to ground level. Strong new canes will grow and produce those scrumptious berries later in the year.
- Continue to plant bare root trees and shrubs.
- Pot up your overwintered dahlia tubers to start them into growth.
- Prune buddleia now to encourage new growth for butterflies and bees to enjoy.
- Order Pea ‘Champion of England’ seeds, ready to sow in March. Recently saved from extinction, this tall variety won’t take up much space and crops incredibly well.
- Cut overwintered fuchsias back to a couple of strong buds.
- Ornamental grasses can be cut down to ground level, allowing new shoots to grow. There may be insects overwintering amongst the cuttings so place them in a corner rather than burning them.
Here are some of the delicious crops I harvest in February:
- Jerusalem Artichokes: Not everyone knows that they’re members of the sunflower family, but most know of their fearsome reputation as wind generators! However, putting that to one side, Jerusalem artichokes really are an excellent winter veg. Their sweet nutty flavour is perfect in risotto, soup and stews, or they can be sliced and used in place of water chestnuts in stir-fries, boiled and mashed with butter and nutmeg, or baked in a gratin.
- Celeriac ‘Brilliant’: Knobbly and oddly shaped, it isn’t the most attractive of vegetables, however looks aren’t everything. One of the few crops ready to harvest in February, its nutty, celery-like flavour, combined with the freshness of fennel, is delicious. Great in soup or mashed, celeriac also works well in stews and can be used as a substitute in any dish requiring sweet potato, squash or turnip.
- Kale: High in vitamins A, B and C plus iron, copper, manganese and calcium, Kale is equal to broccoli in terms of antioxidants. Young leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads and treated as a cut-and-come-again crop, while older leaves are perfect for soups, stews and stir-fries. Chop the leaves up small and cook them in butter for a few minutes before stirring through creamy mashed potato. For a healthy snack, turn kale leaves into crisps by tossing them in seasoned oil and baking for about 8 minutes in the oven!
Ann’s Remoulade Recipe
You will need:
- 1 x celeriac – peeled and cut into very fine Julienne matchsticks
- 4 x tbsp mayonnaise
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1 x tbsp crème fraiche
- 1 x tbsp Dijon mustard
- Handful of chopped parsley
- Salt & pepper
- Toss the celeriac matchsticks in the lemon juice and then add all the other ingredients.
- Gently combine.
- Serve your remoulade on its own as a starter, or to accompany smoked fish or cold meats.
Fancy growing something new?
We all have our favourites – tried and trusted varieties of fruit and veg that we grow each and every year. But it’s also fun to try something new. Here’s my suggestion:
Cherry tomato ‘Honeycomb F1’ is an improvement on the well known ‘Sungold’ variety but with less fruit splitting. Producing large, vibrant orange cherry tomatoes that are full of juice, it really is as sweet as honey! Did you know that tomatoes used to be called Pomme D’Amour (Love Apples) in France? They were believed to have aphrodisiac powers…
You may also be interested in
- Flower seeds to sow in February
- Vegetable seeds to sow in February
- Ann’s allotment and gardening guide – January
- Ann’s allotment and gardening guide – March
Lead image: Jerusalem Artichoke Papas Gourmet roots from Dobies