Are you determined to get a jumpstart on the gardening season this year? In this February Garden Guide, find out what to do this month to have a successful garden.
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In the January Garden Guide, we discussed designing our gardens, buying seeds, a few things to harvest from a cold frame or other protected growing space, and a few maintenance tasks if the weather’s right for working outside.
February is when I start getting antsy for spring. Like me, your garden may be covered in snow but at least February is the month to collect seed starting supplies and dig in. All in all, February is a fairly tame entry into the gardening season.
As an example, this is a sample February calendar based on my gardening year in USDA hardiness zone 6b. You may need to make adjustments for your climate. See below under ‘Garden Planning’ for more ways to adjust this schedule for your needs.
1. February Harvest (from under Protection Outdoors)
- Beet family: beets, spinach, swiss chard
- Cabbage family: collards, kale
2. February Garden Planning
While you may still be deciding on what to plant and how much, you can go ahead and get some seeds started both under grow lights and in a cold frame. Whether you want to start seeds indoors or sow seeds outdoors, this spring guide covers planting times for 30 popular crops. Don’t forget I’m gardening in USDA hardiness zone 6b – you may need to make adjustments for your climate.
Start Seeds Under Grow Lights
The following seeds can be started indoors. For details about starting seeds indoors, see my step-by-step guide.
- Alliums: leek, onion
- Try this King Richard leek variety from Botanical Interests. It’s a fast-growing, early maturer.
- For an onion that stores long into winter, try the sweet Spanish yellow onion. It will work well in zone 6 or colder. Warmer growing zones should have good luck with red creole onion.
- Cabbage Family: broccoli, kale
- Try this Di Cicco broccoli variety from Botanical Interests. It is an heirloom variety that will continue producing side shoots all season, long after the main head has been harvested.
- I couldn’t grow a garden without kale, and I love all varieties. But my garden wouldn’t be complete without Lacinato Dinosaur kale from Botanical Interests. This heirloom variety has flat leaves that are easy to clean.
- Herbs: chives, echinacea, parsley
- Nightshade vegetables: eggplant, pepper
- Do you have enough bright orange in your garden? I bet not 🙂 Try the Orange Sun sweet pepper and bring cheer to your garden and kitchen.
Grow a garden that’s both productive and manageable with my Complete Garden Planning System, a seven-step process that walks you through the season seamlessly, from seed to harvest, month by month. You’ll also get six planning tools including my invaluable seed starting & planting spreadsheet that automatically calculates dates for you!
Start Seeds in a Cold Frame
If you’ve got a cold frame, this is the month to get stuff growing!
- Lettuce (I love growing romaine, and my favorite is Parris Island romaine from Botanical Interests. I think it’s so much easier to clean than leaf lettuce.)
- Peas (Try Sugar Ann, the super early sugar snap pea!)
3. February Garden Maintenance
If I didn’t get to these tasks in January, I try to complete them this month.
- Cut back dead plant matter. Trash it if it was diseased, otherwise compost it. I like to compost in place by chopping the organic matter into smaller pieces that will feed the soil life and break down easily. Leaving the roots intact will also feed the soil life. See my article Building a Compost Bin (5 Ways).
- Weed garden beds.
- Add soil amendments to inactive gardens with a digging fork. Add soil amendments like compost soil, worm castings, fresh or dried herbs, or aged manure. See my article 9 Organic Amendments that Improve Soil for more ideas.
- It’s the perfect time of year to improve soil.
- Rake leaves and make leaf mulch, or save them for composting.
- Cover beds with a deep mulch. I like shredded leaf mulch because it’s free, but chemical-free straw is good, too [Note: Most straw is laden with pesticides.]. For more of my mulching tips, see Mulching in the Permaculture Garden.
- Build a new garden bed! (Are raised beds right for you?)
An Example: Building a New Bed
If the February weather allows, try building a new bed using the sheet mulch method. Sheet mulching is an easy way to convert grass to vegetable beds.
Here is an example of how I built a new bed, which I covered with a cold frame:
1. I covered an area with cardboard, making sure to overlap the ends to cover the ground completely.
2. I added organic matter – compost soil, coffee grounds, worm castings, aged manure, etc.
The minimum rule for the thickness of the organic matter is 12 inches, but go thicker if you have access to enough organic matter.
3. I covered the new bed with a cold frame. This allows me to get a jump on the season and sow a few crops earlier than I might have otherwise.
That’s it, congratulations on a great start to the gardening season!
What did I miss? What do you do in February in your climate?