February in the Garden

My summer sown silverbeet is going to seed which is just as well as I now need that garden space for sowing Asian radishes. Japanese daikon is a favourite. Growing almost as long (and thick) as my arm, I call it the ‘cucumber of winter’, and space seeds well apart to give the plants plenty of room to develop. I’ll use the roots, which thrive the colder the weather gets, grated into salads or diced into stews. Along with its leaves, the roots will also be the base of my kim chi making in June.

My shallots are beginning to brown off, along with the garlic tops. Finger crossed we don’t get too much wet weather to slow this process down. Carrots and beetroot are being harvested just as fast as we can eat the now well developed thinnings. This something I don’t overlook as I want plenty of space for roots to grow as large as possible over the next 2-3 months.

The sugar snaps are officially ‘out of control’ and the pods of garden peas are filling out. Along with broad beans, we’re shelling and freezing this valuable protein on a daily basis while fitting into our weekly menu a few potato and pea curries and pea pilaffs.

Kale seedlings will be planted out in the next few days once I’ve pulled out the seeding lettuces that didn’t sit well over the recent hot weather. I’ve chosen a range of kales but have, this year, omitted the Russian Red as I found its leaves tougher than the more tender curly varieties.

In late February I’ll begin digging the main crop potatoes, drying them off well in a warm but shady spot before sorting out next years seed and placing them in a vermin-proof container with access to the light so they begin sprouting early next spring without any prompting from me. The edibles will be stored in sacks and covered with an old rug to keep out the light which would eventually turn them green.

Between the tomato vines in the glasshouse, I will be planting silver beet seedlings for ourselves and the hens over winter, celery seedlings for warming soups, and also sowing patches of mizuna for winter salads. These greens may not put on a lot of growth until the tomato vines are lifted in March and they have more access to the light, but they will have a head start on any early frost which may arrive.

Picking of Worcester berries and late strawberries is an on-going task and I have a watch on the walnuts so I beat the rats to any that fall to the ground. I’m gathering herb, vegetable and flower seed as fast as it ripens and stowing it in light-proof sealed envelopes which are clearly labelled.

February is a busy month. The pressure is on to pamper and protect plants with slug bait, liquid manure and cloches so as to get as much growth from the garden as possible before the first of the autumn cold makes its mark. There is jam and chutney to make as produce becomes available in the garden, and a never ending supply of courgettes to devour in myriad different ways.

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