Grower's yearbook - February
Now spring is just around the corner, I’m itching to get out in the garden and get muddy! This month there are plenty of bits and bobs to be getting busy with. As always only plant what you like to eat, there’s no point in spending loads of time and effort on growing something you don’t enjoy when it’s ready.
At this time of year I’m busy doing things that I don’t have time to do in the growing season like laying paths, fixing tools, putting up fences and laying hedges.
If your soil isn’t too soggy or frozen you can get it ready for carrots to go in next month. Carrots like a deeply dug loam but don’t manure as this tends to make them fork. Pop your cloches in place so the soil is nice and warm for your first sowing next month.
Now you can plant apples, apricots, pears, medlars, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, black red and white currants as well as the rhubarb that you prepared the soil for last month.
You can prune blueberries, red and white currants. For blueberries prune old dry stems from the third winter onwards, prune to the ground or to a vigorous new shoot that’s close to the ground. Hard pruning in winter will result in larger, earlier fruit. Red and white currants fruit on spurs (like apples) so cut back the first year’s shoots to about half. In later years try to keep as much old fruiting wood as possible and remove a lot of the new wood.
What to plant
Garlic is wonderful. Any kitchen without this great herb would be a sad place. It keeps a long time, is simple to grow, is a powerful antiseptic and can be used in companion planting to ward off nasty pests! I plant cloves (pointy end up) just under the surface 6″ (15cm) apart and 12″ (30cm) between rows. I look around greengrocers to find the biggest most flavorsome garlic I can and this is what I plant.
Jerusalem artichoke are very easy to grow. Being related to the sunflower they make an attractive windbreak. I give them a warm spot of their own, they tend to come back every year unless you very carefully remove every last piece of tuber. I grow loads of these for my pigs who’ll happily dig them up, rotovate and manure my land. At the same time they get a great deal of nutrition, what could be better than that?
To plant these; chuck them in the ground about 5 inches (13cm) deep with 18 inch (45cm) spacings, leave 3 feet (1m) between the rows. When the plants are big enough you can ridge them up like you would potatoes.
Shallots are good to get planting now. You’ll end up with loads of little shallots which are great for pickling and a few a bit bigger that can be used in cooking.
They like a rich, firm soil. Poke them into the ground (pointy end up) so that the tip just protrudes from the surface of the soil. Allow 6 inches (15cm) between the bulbs and 12 inches (30cm) between the rows. A week or two later poke back any that have become dislodged from their position. Now all you have to do is keep weeps at bay!
Broad beans can be eaten fresh or dried for winter use. You can also cook the tops of the plants a bit like spinach. They can be planted now, the longer into spring you leave planting the more chance you get of being ravaged by black fly. Sow 3 inches (8cm) deep, 8 inches (20cm) apart and in double rows 8 inches (20cm) apart. Leave 30 inches (75cm) between each pair of rows. Plant a few extra seeds at the end of the row so you can replace any plants that fail to germinate.
Peas are one of my favorite vegetables. They are so good fresh from the plant that half of mine never get the chance to see the cooking pot. Now you can get a few early (round seeded) peas in, you’ll plant the main crop from mid march onwards right into July. Plant these little wonders 3 inches (8cm) deep and 2 – 3 inches (5-8cm) apart. It is a great help if you soak the peas before for a day or two, this helps boost the germination process.
What to harvest
- Celery to be honest I’ve never liked it but it does add a certain something to stock
- Kale is the plant that you leave till you really need it. It’ll survive the hardest ice and snow
- Leeks are a brilliant vegetables lovely in a leek and potato soup
- Broccoli winter varieties should be good to pick now
- Brussels sprouts are the classic winter vegetable – what would a winter Sunday roast be without sprouts?
- Cabbage is an amazingly versatile vegetable, you can steam it or boil it, turn it into sauerkraut but one of my favourite ways of eating it is in a stir fry
- Chicory can be harvested if you’re forcing it. Dug up in November and kept in a warm – about 10 degrees C – dark place you can get chicory shoots about once a month during winter
Antony Barrett and his girlfriend Steff run Frog Shadow Farm, a self-sufficiency project in Bulgaria. Search Frog Shadow Ltd on Facebook to find out more.
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