Hello from a very wet and windy UK, and to those of you here in the UK who are affect by the flooding my thoughts are with you and what you are going through at the moment puts my “Annus horribilis 2013 ” into perspective.
The biggest issue once the flooding has cleared away and all other aspects of life are back to normal isn’t the amount of water that covered the ground but what was in that water, sewage etc. so be very careful of how you deal with this.
On The Plot This Month
Weather and ground conditions permitting you can direct sow broad beans and some early peas. Also if you have them you can start to chit your seed potatoes. Shallots can be planted now but will benefit from the protect of a cloche. If the soil is warm enough (hmmm!) you can also sow parsnips this month, but I prefer to wait until March or even April to do this, as I get a better germination rate with the soil being warmer.
The following can be started off in a greenhouse or ploytunnel or even a windowsill, turnips, spinach and summer cabbage, it is also possible to start your onions from seed but they do need a constant min temperature of 15 degrees centigrade so maybe a windowsill in a cooler room is best for them.
This Months Harvest
We should be able to harvest leeks, parsnips Swedes and turnips, it is a good idea to cover them with fleece so that the ground does not freeze around them making it hard to dig them up. And from the brassica family brussells sprouts, chard, kale and early sprouting broccoli should all be available.
As mentioned earlier shallots do benefit from protection is planted out now, Harrod Horticultural have a special offer on their lowgrow super cloche with a saving of £30 when you buy 3. Further details can be found here http://www.growingyourownveg.com/resources.php
Last month saw a right mix bag of weather, bight sunshine and blue skies but pretty cold dropping to freezing at night, then rain and more rain for days on end, plus a good dollop of snow thrown in as well. Just about 12 months I was advising people to prepare for hosepipe bans and drought, so of course we had the wettest year ever. However I still think we should be prepared for a long dry spell (yes I know we only get one of those every 2000 years).
I am often asked if growing your own food can save you money, well the answer to that is too look at what has happened to food prices in the shops, they have gone through the roof. Mainly due to the wet year we had last year, it wasn’t just gardeners who were under water but farmers too. There’s thousands of acres that are only just drying out enough to cultivate now.
I can only see food prices continuing to go up, as the world population increases, more land used for housing and not growing, plus the changing climate will mean more extreme weather which does not help farming.
There is another reason for growing your own and that is you know what has been done to produce the food you are eating. Given the latest news about horsemeat appearing in so called beef products, plus other stories of food not being what the label says it is can we really trust the food supply chain?
You do not need to go totally organic as long as you know what has been used and are happy with it.
Unfortunately it is not viable for all of us to produce our own meat but we can at least control what is used to produce our fruit and vegetables.
Ok enough of the moaning on with the gardening.
If the weather permits now is the time to be planting the onion and shallot sets, mid March should be the start of planting those early potatoes you have been chitting.
Broad beans, Brussels sprouts, early peas, and parsnips can all be sown this month.
Indoors you can sown tomatoes and peppers.
Now is the time to harvest any leeks and parsnips that are still in the ground .
You can still plant bare rooted cane fruit bushes.
So here we are in February already and some of us will have already started off seedlings etc. which is why some of the old timers call February the impatient month.
We are all desparate to get back out into the garden and get going. But the trouble with this month is that we can end it with two feet of snow or glorious sunny skies and there is just no way to tell which it is going to be.
The biggest issue with starting seeds of even indoors is the lack of daylight hours (as may experiment to grow carrots indoors during December and january proved), the lack of light leads to weak leggy seedlings that either die off or do not seem to do as well as those started off a little later.
The use of grow lights can give you a bit of a head start however unless you are growing on a commercial scale is the cost of the equipemnt and the electricity worth it?
There is a simple trick that can help to increase the amount of light the seedlings reciev and that is to place a mirror (a bit of aluminium filon on some cardboard will do) a the back of the seedlings to reflect light back onto them. Just remember to turn the tray around each to help prevent the seedling be drawn to wards the window.
If you plan to grow potatoes this year you should now be starting to chit them, but be careful if you are doing so in a shed or garage as if we get a realy cold night (such as last night) the cold can damage the chits and almost certainly prevent you from getting a good crop. The best thing to do is to provide some protection with some fleece at night when the temperature is predicted to drop.
Also this month
It is the last chance to prune any apples / pear4s that need it as the sap will soon start to rise again. It is also time to cut down the Autumn fruiting raspberries and to prune the balckcurrents.
If you do plan to plant out / direct sow it is a good idea to cover the ground with either cloches or agricultural fleece a couple of weeks before so that the soil has the chance to warm of a couple of degrees.