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.
Click here to see my Year-Round Gardening Calendar.
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 6a. 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)
Crops that were sown in early fall, covered by row cover, cold frame, hoop house, greenhouse, or some other kind of protection, can be harvested throughout the winter.
- 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 6a – 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
- The American flag leek variety has never steered me wrong.
- 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, which includes practical tools for planning your season from seed to harvest.
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.
- Here are 5 weeds you want in your garden. Also see when weeds are good.
- 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?
Are you going to put your broccoli in a cold frame? I’m growing broccoli this year for the first time in forever, but I wasn’t planning to start them for a couple more weeks. I’m not using any season extenders this year, though.
Liz Dunlap says
TY for the reminder. Getting my lights ready as we speak, only a few more days to start if going by the moon planting. Have the broccoli/onions in a make shift cold frame, ready to plant in the beds, just waiting for this last storm to pass. Thankfully last week was the soil. So it’s great to have you send these articles to check in with everyone, keeping us reminded to stay on schedule. TY so much. Happy gardening. PS, love what you did with your front yard.
Amy Stross says
I will probably just use row cover for the broccoli, but if I had a few more cold frames I would use them!
Angi @ SchneiderPeeps says
What a great list. We’re doing much of the same (zone 9). Our average last frost date is Feb. 15th but we don’t usually plant until the first week of March.
I’m glad to hear that suggestions for zone 6 gardening are at least relevant to zone 9 🙂
Gentle Joy says
Great post… it is so nice to be thinking of gardening again. 🙂 Thank you.
New Garden says
How long should I age fresh manure. used manure tea last year with good results
Six months is a safe timeline. Typically manure is mixed with bedding, which speeds up the composting process. If it isn’t, layering the manure with carbon materials – twigs, leaf matter, straw, or wood chips will help speed the process.
The smell test is the ultimate test for readiness. There’s a clear distinction between aged and fresh manure scent 🙂
I love your tips! 🙂 Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop. Hope to see you again this week! 🙂
Heidi @ Pint Size Farm says
LOL, smell test for manure 🙂 It amazes me how many people advertise “free manure” on craigslist when they really just mean horse doo… and how many people put that straight on their garden! Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre hop.
Even though we are not able to get in the garden for a quite awhile here it’s great to come and visit someone who is! We live in Michigan and the degree this morning is 6 with a windchill factor of -14 so we are not ready just yet.
All your produce sound so good and I hope you have a great gardening season this year.
lisa M says
Great post…and I’m so jealous! We’re still buried under snow so there’s nothing to be done here yet. 1 more month to go. I can’t wait to get started too.
Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday last week! I’d love it if you’d stop by and link up again this week!
Rocking The Homestead says
Your February sounds like our April! In February, I usually alternate between more planning, and cursing everyone in warmer zones posting pictures of and talking about all they can do already. Lol. When we get nice days, which happens sporadically, I can get out and do some clean up, maybe some soil prep. This year I’ve been digging out some rock the previous owners mulches with on the side of our house. We’ll be putting in raised Hugelkultur beds in that spot.
Ha! Yes, that winter weather can really spoil the fun sometimes. We alternate between mild winters and harsher winters. This one seems about average, so technically I could be getting a lot more done!
It sounds like you’re doing as much as you can. Hugelkultur beds sound like a great idea! Oh, and when you’re done, I have some gravel that needs dug up at my house LOL! Keep me posted on those hugels 🙂
It’s February, I have 3 feet of snow in my yard, 45 mph winds and more snow on the way.
A cold frame would have collapsed due to wind and snow.
My ground won’t be clear until March if I’m lucky.
What you can do in February depends entirely on where you live.
Exactly. That’s why it says above, “Remember that I’m in USDA hardiness zone 6a, which may or may not apply to your location.” I hope it’s warm and cozy for you inside!
Soooo jealous! Not because of where I live, but because we aren’t going to to be gardening this year. We’re going to be building a house instead, so I guess the trade off is worth it. But right now, there’s nothing to be done for the house, and I COULD be garden planning, If I was going to be gardening. Ah well. Next year….
First things first 🙂 Although this is the typical plan I use, I won’t be gardening this year either as we set up our new homestead. It’s not a homestead without the home!
Diane Byers says
Couldn’t find a way to respond in your personal welcome letter. Am here as an audience or observer as I did this same thing in 1980, quit my teaching job to be a fulltime mom, wife and gardener. To literally put food on the table from our suburban lot. Will be fun for me to compare our journeys in a pre and post social media world.By the way, in zone 5 or 6, winter sowing of spinach can occur on ,Sept.28, my daughter’s birthday. I was out in the cold frame, ten days overdue, sowing it sideways off my body and also in labor….Looking forward to this exchange.
Rugged Homestead says
My garden is on hold this year as I’m converting it into a greenhouse/hoop house. Because the bed alignment is going to be somewhat altered, I don’t want to run into problems between the growing plants and the construction that will be taking place. It’s the first time in 10 years I won’t have a spring garden, but I’m looking forward to being able to plant a fall crop at least once the build phase is completed.
Wishing you sweet rewards for your efforts 🙂
Hi Amy, Thank you for this information. It has encouraged me to try yet again to put effort into the garden and hope for a harvest. I’m ordering some of the varieties of seed/plants you mentioned are cold hardy as where I live we can get upwards of 24 inches of snow in winter in zone 7a.God bless you.