February In The Food Garden
Winter on the island has been very mild this year but then along came February, bringing the ‘weather’ with it. For some reason, early February seems to always bring on snow and cold, the harshest of the winter weather.
We got a wee skiff of snow, some minus temperatures, a biting cold breeze, and more wintery woes to come. Luckily, this will soon blow over and we will be outside planting early peas and broad beans into the garden beds.
Here are a few things that you can do this month in the garden, greenhouse, or cold frame.
In the yard…
- Prune apple, pear, fig, and other fruit trees. Choose a warm and dry day to prune, rainy day pruning may spread fungal diseases. Spray with Dormant oil/lime sulphur mix (sold as a kit) to smother over-wintering pests and fungal diseases. Spraying now will help reduce pest issues in spring and summer and best of all, you are not harming any of the beneficial insects as they are not yet out.
- Prune roses, cutting them back by 1/3 to promote new branching and more blooms. Spray with the dormant oil mix, as above. Helps to cut back on black spot.
- Weed your pathways and beds now, especially the awful seed-popping Hairy Bittercress that you see in the picture above. This stuff is dreadful and once you have it, you have it. You gotta stay on top of it or it soon takes over everything. How? It has exploding seeds! The plant looks harmless enough, small little rounded leaves, a slender stalk of teeny tiny little white flowers... and then POP! The seeds literally snap off the plant, scattering hundreds of weed seeds everywhere. Hairy Bittercress is one of the earliest weeds to emerge, in our area in springs up in January or February, going from small sprout to seed popping in just 6 weeks.
In the greenhouse/house
- This month we can fertilising our indoor plants, citrus trees, and over wintering annuals again.
- Check your over wintering bulbs (glads, dahlias, begonias...) If you see any that are mouldy, soft or mushy, remove them before they spread the rot to the other bulbs. If you see any that are starting to sprout, it is time to pop them into pots or planters. Transfer them to the garden when all risk of frost is over.
- Cut back your geraniums (pelargoniums) hard now for nice, bushy plants with lots of blooms all summer long. If you do not cut them back, they will end up leggy and less attractive by the time summer comes along.
For more geraniums, take the cutting and pot them up.
- Jot things down. I personally have been keeping a garden journal for many years, a brand new book each year, with my thoughts and plans for both gardens and greenhouse. This year I printed up my own journals for the greenhouse, which I love so much. They are on lovely kraft paper for that vintage vibe, with drawings done by my super talented baby girl.
- Now is a terrific time to pick up a new journal for the gardening season ahead. Write down all your great ideas, recipes, favourite tomatoes to grow this year, new veggies to trial. Plot out your garden plan, your succession sowing schedule, colour schemes. Draw or paint pictures, cut pics out of magazines and paste them in your journal to inspire you. When you sow, when you harvest, how much you harvest… the ideas for your journaling are endless.
Seeds to Start in February
If you are not sure when to start seeds in your area, you will need to know two things. First, when is the last average frost date in your area? Second, when does the seed package say to sow? Check the back of the package for planting directions and timing.
Here on Vancouver island, last frost varies widely. On the south end of the island, it is March 28th, while here on mid-island we go by the April 28th date, a whole month later. Therefore, for us, if the seed package says to start 8 to 12 weeks before last frost, we are good to go. There are not many veggies that are started yet at this time, see the list below.
- Peppers, both hot and sweet.
- Lettuce, greens, mustards
- Oriental greens like Boy Choi
- Alliums - leeks and onions
- Asparagus from seed, if you have the patience of a saint. Takes 5 years to go from seed to harvest.
- Most all of the hardy, perennial ones ... oregano, parsley, mint, thyme, marjoram, sage.
- Start rosemary and tarragon from cuttings rather than seed.
- Sweet peas
- Pansies and violas
- many, many more
In actuality, the flowers that you can start now, from seed, are much too numerous to mention. Check the back of your packages for start dates. If it says to start them 8 to 12 weeks before the last frost date, you are good to go.
Direct Sow In the garden
- Broad/fava beans (need no frost blankets or covers, just pop them in the ground this month)
- Radishes, spinach, winter lettuces, Oriental greens (start under cover, either low frames or row covers)
Change out your winter pots and planters with some spring colour. Pick up some forced potted bulbs, pansies, violas, primulas, and English Daisies to brighten your front stoop.