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Wednesday 3 February 2016

The Vegetable Plot - February

Starting from scratch

Let’s assume you have not grown vegetables before. February into spring is a good time to prepare your seed bed, providing the soil is workable. Walk over the area and if the soil sticks to your boots it’s still too wet.

If you were able in the autumn and over winter to dig the plot, spread compost then dig a series of trenches, bringing the soil from the first trench over to the last and so on, you’re ready for the next stage. Your job now is to break down the clods brought up from the winter digging and then apply a dressing of fertiliser and work it into the soil to avoid scorching the roots of germinating seed.

Work out a crop rotation chart according to your preference in vegetables. Very important because without it soil-living pests and diseases will steadily increase and continuous cropping with the same vegetable can leave the soil’s nutrients unbalanced.

Ideally do ROOTS in year one: beetroot, carrot, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip, potato, BRASSICAS in year two: broccoli, Brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl robi, radish, swede, turnip and OTHERS in year three: aubergine, bean, capsicum, celeriac, celery, cucumber, endive, leek, lettuce, marrow, onion, peas, spinach, sweet corn, tomato.

Of course if you have the space you can grow neighbouring beds and rotate accordingly to ensure a vegetable crop throughout the year. The rules for sowing seed outdoors are: not too early, not too deeply and not too thickly so check your seed packets for sowing times. If you already have your vegetable patch make a checklist of other jobs to be done in February.

  • Check overwintered crops such as brassicas, leeks and onions, clear away diseased or damaged leaves
  • Sow leeks, onions and celeriac under cover    
  • Start chitting early seed potatoes upright in egg boxes or trays with the eye end uppermost
  • Sow Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflowers, lettuces, onions, leeks, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, tomatoes and turnips  
  • Lift and store parsnips
  • Sow parsnips outdoors
  • Clear old cabbage and cauliflower beds
  • Sow broad beans in a heated greenhouse or frame
  • Mulch asparagus and artichokes with well rotted manure or garden compost
  • Sow parsley in a warm, sheltered place

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