‘Should I be sowing now?’ my newbie GYO mate asked at work this week. Normally, I’d say give it a few weeks, just to be sure. But he was so cheerful in his questions. So I said I’d write him a blog post instead.
Mark, this one is for you.
The first thing I look for when deciding what to sow in February are weeds. I rue them in the Summer, but during Winter they’re a welcome sign. If weeds are starting to appear, it generally signifies a soil temperature of 5-6 degrees, which is warm enough for some of the hardy seeds to germinate.
Broad Beans and Parsnips
Broad beans can be sown directly in February if the soil reaches these temperatures, and parsnips are worth a go too, especially since you get more seeds in a packet than you could use in one year. You need fresh parsnip seeds each year too, so you might as well make use of the seeds and stick some in early.
Warming the Soil
You can warm the soil earlier than normal by covering it in black plastic sheeting a few weeks before you intend to sow.
Greenhouses and Containers
If you’ve got a greenhouse (Mark’s inherited one on his new plot, so he’s in for an exciting month), then there are more sowing options. Lettuce and salad leaves, early carrots, radish and spinach can all be sown directly into undercover soil beds, whilst peas, mangetout, leeks, cabbages, broad beans, parsnips, early cauliflower and celeriac can go into pots or modules.
Sowing in containers is also a worthwhile thing to do during February. By sowing now, you can bring the plants on earlier, and then move them outside when the temperatures has warmed up. This is also opportune, as you’ll start to need the space too.
Early carrots are good in containers, and I’ve had some success with early potatoes in sacks too. Make sure you leave the containers in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks first though, to let the soil warm up.
Winter Seed Sowing Satisfaction
Although not exhaustive, there is some sowing satisfaction to be had right now, which is a nice antidote to the rubbish rainy weather. Temperature obviously has a big part to play, but the increasing light levels are also very important, so make sure you position any pot or module sowings where they’ll get the best of any sun (i.e. not under the workbench).
And if things do get cold, a layer of horticultural fleece laid over the top of your seedlings can raise temperatures a degree or too. This can make all the difference in an early sowing’s fight to make Spring time.
February sowings are very tempting, but of course they can be unpredictable too. Some can take 4-5 weeks to show, and don’t be disappointed if they don’t come at all. However, what does will be an extremely gratifying early harvest…