Is there really anything we can sow now?
Well, that depends…
I often try to sneak a few seeds in at the beginning of February, and sowing this time of year is an intriguing challenge that ties me over until the real action starts in Spring.
The success of early sowing is obviously dependent on many different factors. Of course, there’s the weather, but the location is also important. Down here in the South East, Winter is normally kind to us, but those in the North of the country will often have to wait much longer before being able to sow.
A greenhouse, or space inside, will also help hugely. I was lucky to inherit a greenhouse when I moved home a couple of years back, and this has given my early sowing attempts a real leg up.
So, here are 5 of the earliest seeds you can sow. I can’t promise they’ll work, but as the old saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it (I think that’s a Real Men Sow disclaimer!)…
With some cover, such as a cloche, broad beans can be sown as early as February. All being well, this will give you a harvest towards the beginning of June.
You can sow direct, or in pots in the greenhouse in readiness for transplanting outside. If you sow direct, put the seeds in blocks so you can stake in each corner and tie string around the plants. The plants will then support each other as they get the nearer full size.
Aquadulce Claudia is thought to be the best broadie variety for early or overwinter sowing.
Radishes are a great crop to slip into any spare greenhouse borders during February. They’re big, easy to sow seeds, and only need temperatures of 5 degrees to germinate.
Radishes grow quickly and a February sowing in the greenhouse could see you munching on the pretty little pink roots as early as April.
For an early pea crop, your best bet is to sow in pots or modules in the greenhouse and plant out later, as peas sown in the cold, wet ground are likely to rot.
Another neat trick is to sow a row in a length of guttering undercover, and when the soil has warmed and dried out, dig a small trench and slide the contents of the guttering straight in.
Feltham First is a traditional favourite for early pea sowings, as they have good cold tolerance and are fast-growing.
The ever-popular Early Nantes carrot is another option for an empty greenhouse border. I’m always tempted by an early carrot sowing as there are literally thousands of seeds in a packet so a failed early sowing won’t matter very much.
If you’re looking to sow carrot seeds outside, now is a good time to cover an area in black tarpaulin. This will heat the soil as the days get longer and warmer, which can make it possible to sow carrots a few weeks early.
Boltardy is a good, reliable choice for an early sowing cloche-covered sowing of beetroot. Beetroot can take three weeks to germinate under normal circumstances, so patience is required. My February sowings have taken over four weeks to germinate in the past.
I’ve also successfully sown beetroot in modules in the greenhouse and planted out in Spring.