February always feels like the first real month in the garden to me. Sure there’s a few things to do in January, if you want. But my first real round of seed starting happens around mid-month. Count forward 6 weeks and it’s the beginning of April – the perfect time to put hardy brassica transplants out in the garden. Four weeks after that, at the beginning of May, tomatoes (by then in gallon pots) will move outside under cloches.
So even though it’s still chilly, and doesn’t quite feel like Spring has sprung, gardeners everywhere are stretching their arms above their head and rubbing the sleep from their eyes.
Let’s get going. The season is upon us.
Plan and Purchase
By now you should have a pretty good idea what you will be growing, and where you will be growing it. If you’re still finalizing your seed order, check out my choices for great varieties by price point or learn how to navigate a seed catalog without going crazy.
If you’re still finalizing your garden plan, think about crop rotation so you aren’t growing the same crop in one spot year after year. Also consider mature height of your plants, and keep the tall stuff to the north of the short stuff. I sell a downloadable Garden Planner and Journal, should you need one to keep track of this stuff.
Unless you really like studying chemical exudates, I advise being fairly informal about companion planting. Just do what I do and shove calendula and nasturtium and marigold seeds everywhere and let nature take it from there.
If you didn’t do it last month, now’s the time to order perennial plants like rhubarb and asparagus, and this is a good time to find bare-root fruit trees, bushes and canes at nurseries. These should be planted as soon as they arrive, and no later than mid-March. For best selection, order your seed potatoes at the beginning of the month, too.
Order or Buy:
- Rhubarb Crowns
- Asparagus Crowns
- Bare Root Fruit Trees
- Bare Root Fruit Bushes
- Bare Root Cane Fruit & Vines
- Seed Potatoes
Prepare and Prune
This is a great time to start thinking about warming your soil where you’ll be planting heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers. If you aren’t opposed to using plastic in the garden, pin black plastic down over your beds for extra heat and weed suppression. Clear plastic actually warms soil even better, but allows weeds to germinate like crazy.
If you plan to leave plastic on your beds the whole season and just plant through it, make sure you have a soaker hose or something under the plastic.
You can also erect your low tunnels and cloches at this time of year, to help winter-water-logged soil dry out and warm. By the time your transplants are ready, the soil will be too.
There’s still time to handle dormant season pruning and spray fruit trees with dormant oil to control mites, scale and overwintering buggies. See the January
Whoa boy, here we go.
- Asparagus – if you want to try growing asparagus from seed, you have to start at the beginning of February. The seeds can take almost a month to germinate. Personally, I’d wait a month or two and buy 1 year old crowns from a good nursery or mail order seed company.
- Artichokes – I like Green Globe and Violetta.
- Broccoli – early varieties should be started under lights this month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April. I like Waltham 29 and Belstar. I’ll also sow some Broccoli Raab.
- Brussels Sprouts – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April. I prefer Brussels Sprouts as a cool season crop, and will start them in June to mature in mid-September for harvest through fall and winter. If you want to give them a go as a Spring/Summer crop, pick a fast-maturing variety like Franklin and watch the aphids.
- Cabbage – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April.
- Cauliflower – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April. I like Snowball.
- Kohlrabi – Kolibri is a good variety for spring, but I like this crop better and find it easier to grow for fall.
- Chard, Collards and Kale – if you want early cooking greens you can start them now. If your space under lights is limited, wait and sow them out under a cloche next month.
- Hardy Herbs – now is the time to sow seed for parsley, lemon verbena, chives, fennel, borage, chamomile, chervil and johnny-jump-ups (yes, they’re edible!)
- Salad Greens – Aim for a salad green sowing every month. New month? New sowing of lettuce, etc. That’ll give you edible salad greens in some stage of growth through October. It’s still quite early, so stick to the cool-weather cultivars.
- Spinach – Just like the other salad greens: new month, more spinach. Spinach bolts quick as a wink, so don’t wait on harvesting it.
- Onions & Summer Leeks – You did these guys last month, right? If not, you’ll want to jump on it now or we’ll be buying Walla Walla sets at the nursery together. You’ll want long-day or day-neutral onion varieties if you’re in the Northwest. No short-days.
- Peas – start these inside in a length of gutter, or sow them out and cover with a sheet of clear plastic to keep them warm and not-soggy until they germinate. Then cloche them and plan for early peas.
- Tomatoes – depending on how much work you are willing to put into your tomatoes, you can start them in February with plans to up-pot to gallons if necessary and transplant to a pre-warmed, tunnel-cloched bed in late April or early May, depending on weather. If you just don’t want to put that much work into it, wait a month. I like Sweetie, San Marzano and Striped Roman.
- Hot Peppers and Sweet Peppers – I start these at the same time as tomatoes, knowing they will need more babying than maters and will get a spot in the greenhouse.
Sow & Plant Outside
As long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged, fruiting trees, bushes and perennials can all be planted out.
- Peas – George Washington’s birthday (2/21) is the traditional time to sow peas. If the soil has warmed up and isn’t waterlogged, and if you didn’t sow peas indoors, the end of February is a good time to get them in the ground. If the soil still seems really cold and wet, wait a few more weeks or cover with a piece of clear plastic to keep the heat in the soil and the rain off it.
- Favas – Direct sow anytime. I like Broad Windsor.
- Garlic – You don’t have to do this because you got your garlic in last fall so it’s already showing 6 or 7 inches of shoot, right? Right? Oh, well, not to worry! Just stick some in now. Your garlic heads will be smaller but you’ll still have homegrown garlic.
- Salad Greens, Spinach, Asian Greens & European Greens – sow out the hardiest greens under cloche for the earliest possible direct seeded new crop greens. If the weather sucks they’ll take their sweet time germinating.
- Radishes – the little globe ones. Try a pretty mix like Valentine’s Day.
- Onion Sets – for early green onions, you can plant sets now and use them before they bulb.
- Bare root fruit trees – these should be put into previously prepared ground while still dormant.
- Bare root fruit bushes (currants, gooseberries, blueberries, etc.) – just like the trees, get these in the ground while still dormant.
- Cane fruits (blackberries, raspberries, etc.) – available bare root now.
- Rhubarb crowns – these can be had by dividing established plants or purchased at a good nursery.
- Horseradish roots – these can be invasive! It’s a good idea to plant them in a very large container sunk into the ground to control their roaming.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Overwintering Cabbage
- Carrots & Parsnips
- Kale & Collards
- Overwintering Cauliflower
- Sprouting Broccoli
- Winter Kohlrabi
- Turnips & Rutabagas
- Protected Salad Greens, Asian Greens and Euro Greens
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Stored Winter Squash
- Stored Potatoes
Are you eager to get going on your garden? I know I am!