February is the ungardening month, best seen from the warm side of a window. If you are looking for excuses, there are a couple of good ones – walking on a frosted lawn will do it no good at all, and walking on a sodden bed will compact the soil, which makes roots unhappy. If you do get out there, though, it might be a good idea to throw down some well-rotted manure, or a couple of handfuls of Growmore: the recent rains will have washed a lot of nutrients out of the soil.
If you are feeling virtuous, now is a good time to do those housekeeping jobs you will not find time for when the growing season starts: clean the greenhouse windows, preferably with something fungicidal; wash your pots, and sharpen your tools. If you are stuck indoors, go through your seed packets, and throw away anything too far past its sell-by date. Yes, of course a lot of them might germinate, but if they don’t you have wasted time, space, and effort. Much of what you keep can be sown now, and cloches will warm the ground up for when you want to plant them out. (Actually cloches are rather expensive, so perhaps polythene stretched over wire hoops might be more cost effective). February is also the best month to chit early potatoes, for planting out in mid March.
|Vegetable of the month: rhubarb. My own is in a half barrel by the back door, and I must remember to put a bucket over it against the frost. If I had a bigger bucket, of course, I could force it, which produces an early (and very sweet) crop.
Terra cotta forcers are even more expensive than cloches, but a dustbin would do. Though I am not sure I want an upside down dustbin by the back door. Anyway, rhubarb crowns are in the shops now – they come in a plastic bag full of compost, and don’t buy them if this has dried out. Plant them an inch or so below the surface, in fairly rich soil – they need a lot of nitrogen, to grow those big leaves.
Feed the birds! And provide them with water. When spring comes, they will repay you by eating thousands of garden pests.