February is a good time to check the pH value of your soil, a small testing kit from the gardening shop will give you a rough guide to how acid or alkaline the soil is and you can add manure or lime accordingly dependant on which crops you are growing.
Bean trenches can be dug and plenty of well rotted garden compost and manure added to the bottom. Aim for a trench 18 inches (450mm) wide and a spade deep as beans have a large root system and require plenty of moisture. Leave the trench open until planting to allow the weather to continue breaking down the compost in the bottom.
Warm the soil by putting frames or cloches over the area you intend to make any early sowings.
In most areas Its still too early to sow all but the most hardy seeds outside and even then they will need frame or cloche protection. The hardy varieties of broad bean the ‘Longpods’ can be sown under covers, as can the forcing types of carrot such as ‘Amsterdam forcing’. Radish can also do very well undercover, but any long period of very cold weather could result in them prematurely going to seed once they restart to grow.
In warmer areas early peas like ‘Kelvendon wonder’ or ‘Early onward’ can be sown towards the end of the month, but this can be some what hit and miss, but is worth the try just for the earliest of early peas in my view.
Check any over wintering veg such as spring cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli for any dead or yellowing leaves and clear any away. Towards the end of the month give these types of veg a surface feed of a general fertilizer to aid recovery in to full growth.
Prepare seed beds for next months sowings. With any luck the weed seed that is in the soil will have germinated before you want to sow and can be removed to leave a cleaner bed.
This month is a good time to apply fertilizer to most fruits, by applying now the fertilizer has time to be dissolved and washed down to the roots ready for the spring flush of growth. Sprinkle compound feeds around the fruit plant 2 to 3 inches away from the crown or stem, if by any chance there has been no rain for a few days after feeding it is advisable to lightly hoe the fertilizer into the top inch of soil to help its dispersal.
If not already done, cut done autumn fruiting Raspberries to the ground, summer fruiting types should have all last years canes that fruited cut out. Also remove any weak thin growth to encourage the vigor into this years fruit canes, cut back the extra tall canes to the top of the supports, this will produce more fruit bearing side shoots.
Tidy up the strawberry plants by removing any dead or dieing leaves and feed with a few ounces of potash around each plant. Too get really early strawberries place a cloche or frame over a few plants, but don’t forget to ventilate on warmer days and remove when the plants show signs of flowering to allow the bees to do their thing.
Its still not too late to plant bare rooted fruit trees/plants, the advantage of planting now is that the plant does not sit in cold wet soil for a few months before growing away in spring.
In the middle to late February the greenhouse comes into its own providing the extra warmth and protection for some early sowings. Early varieties of Cabbage, Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can all be sow. These will need potting up and hardening off before planting out at the end of march.
Ventilate the greenhouse when ever possible on warmer days. Any cold, damp, still air in the greenhouse will encourage damping off of plants and seedlings.
Damping off is when an apparent healthy plant or seedling wilts and falls, on inspection, the roots just under the surface of the compost are brown and rotted. Poor air circulation, over crowded seedlings and over watering are the usual causes.
Be prepared to give extra protection when the temperature falls at night. Garden fleece or news paper placed lightly over the plants can give a degree or two of protection, but should be removed in the day to allow as much light to the growing plant as possible.
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