Jobs for the month: February 2012
By: Web Editor
Sow beetroot - Sowing anything outside this early in the season is a risk for most of us and impossible for many. However, if you have a cool greenhouse you can start to sow some early crops in trays or pots ready for planting out once the weather and soil conditions improve.
Beetroot can be sown outside in warmer areas of the country in well drained soil towards the end of February, otherwise sow now in cell trays filled with fresh sowing compost. Sow three seeds, evenly spaced into each large cell or small pot and cover with 3mm (¼in) or so of compost.
If you choose a traditional variety such as ‘Boltardy’, more than one seedling is likely to emerge from the ‘seed’ (really a cluster of seeds). You should snip off any excess with some scissors. They can be left but the resultant roots may be very small. However, the three spaced ‘seeds’ can be left to develop into clumps of roots. Modern monogerm types such as ‘Solo F1’ or ‘Moneta’ only produce one seedling per seed.
Sow broad beans
Broad beans are hardy and weather permitting can be sown outside now in a thoroughly prepared seed bed in well drained soil. However, as with beetroot this is a risk at this time of year and seeds sown in trays are better protected from the vagaries of the weather and pests.
Sow one seed into the top of a small pot or deep-celled tray such as a Rootrainer and cover the seed with its own depth of compost before watering well. No heat is required.
Plant Jerusalem artichokes
If there is one crop that can be relied upon to succeed just about anywhere it is Jerusalem artichokes, though once planted, you will have them forever so try some first to be sure you like them! Apart from being a tasty, nutritious crop the tough tubers are wonderful for breaking up the soil. The top growth is good at crowding out weeds and being tall and strong it makes a good windbreak for more tender crops (the flowers are pretty, too). The major disadvantage however, is that they are quite invasive and will quickly take over a patch of ground if allowed to, so you do need to ensure that all pieces of root are removed at the end of the season or that a clump is controlled.
There are a few varieties available but ‘Fuseau’ is the one most commonly offered. Plant during February and March in ground which was dug the previous autumn and manure or garden compost incorporated. Since the tubers are generally left in the ground until needed, choose a plot that doesn’t become waterlogged in winter. Space tubers 45cm (18in) apart in rows 90cm (36in) apart.
Individual tubers can be planted in large pots and this keeps them in check, however, you must be sure that the compost is not allowed to dry out during the growing season. Plants in the ground should also be watered during dry spells for best results and all will need support to keep the tall growth upright.
February’s essential task
The pruning of soft fruit such as gooseberries and currants should be completed this month and autumn raspberries can also be cut back now before the new growth emerges.
● Gooseberries: Cut back main shoots to within three buds of last season’s new growth. Cut back all other shoots to within 7.5cm (3in) of the base. Low branches should be removed or cut back to an upward-facing bud. Branches growing into the centre of the plant should be removed.
● White and redcurrants: Prune leading shoots back by 5-7.5cm (2-3in). Prune all sideshoots back to one bud. Remove low-growing branches completely. Select up to three of the oldest branches on well established bushes and cut them back to vigorous young shoots.
● Autumn raspberries: Simply cut last season’s fruiting shoots back to ground level.
February at a glance
Beetroot, lettuce, salad leaves, summer cabbage, peppers, aubergines, peas, greenhouse tomatoes, broad beans, parsnips, radish, spring onion, bulb onions (seeds and sets), greenhouse cucumbers (heated crops), spinach
Jerusalem artichoke, rhubarb, salsify, scorzonera
Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, savoy cabbage, celery, celeriac, chicory, endive, leeks, lettuce, salad leaves, radish, spinach, swedes, turnip tops
Potatoes, carrots, beetroot, apples, pears, beans, onions/shallots
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