February in the vegetable garden

February: pick the last of the kale before it runs to seed.

The weather in February can be very changeable; some days are warm and sunny and other days are still very cold with persistent rain and sleet. Nevertheless the daylight hours are lengthening and there are signs that spring is on its way.

Mizuna rocket and winter lettuce sown last Autumn should be ready to harvest now.  It is time to pick the last of the kale before it runs to seed. Make sure you get to it soon if you haven’t already or it may be stripped bare by hungry birds like mine. 

What to sow

Mizuna rocket and winter lettuce will grow in a cold greenhouse in late February and will grow well regardless of the low light levels and cool temperatures.

Brussel sprouts, leeks, onions and spinach can all be sown inside to be transplanted out into the garden in April or May. Place them on a windowsill where they will get a little warmth.

Broad beans and peas are hardy plants but start these off in pots inside and then move them once germinated to a cool greenhouse or cold frame. 

If you have a propagator you can begin sowing tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, peppers and globe artichokes (these are tubers) and sprouting broccoli in February and grow them on somewhere warm and light. Otherwise, wait a few weeks and begin on a windowsill.

Globe artichokes are truly worth growing as they are delicious roasted.


Complete any unfinished winter-pruning of fruit trees and soft fruits, including apples, autumn raspberries and blackcurrants. Feed fruit trees with a sprinkle of sulphate of potash fertiliser around the base which will encourage fruiting.

Begin ‘chitting’ first-early potato tubers about the end of the month. Simply put your potatoes, such as the early variety ’Foremost’ in a container (I use egg boxes as each potato is supported in its own little compartment and not touching another potato) and then place them in a cool and light place and watch as the sprouts develop and grow. This process gives the potato a head start before being planted outside in April.

Potatoes ‘chitting’ in an egg box. The sprouts grow quickly, speeding up the whole growing process.

The vegetable beds may need a bit of a weed now and if you did not get them covered with a mulch layer earlier on now is the time to cover the bed with a thick layer of garden compost. Alternatively if you dig your plot over and haven’t done so yet now is your last chance to do so, making sure you dig in plenty of organic compost. It is a good idea to cover some of the raised beds (or an area of your plot) with plastic as this will warm up the soil and allow you to sow a few crops earlier than normal.

Putting a cloche over strawberry plants will start them into early growth for an earlier crop. Pot on and pinch out autumn-sown sweet peas to encourage side shoots to form.

Keep an eye open for rats at this time of year. I am in process of trying to catch a pair nesting under my newly erected shed. I watched as the female spent 2 days running backwards and forwards collecting  old leaves and stems and taking them under my shed for bedding.

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