With The Days Getting Longer, What to Sow in February In The UK Is Being Asked By Many Gardeners. And Of Course, It’s Tempting to Sow & Plant A Lot of Seeds This Month, But We Need To Be Aware of Which Seeds Will Prosper, Inside & Out, And Which Will Die! Here’s My List Of What To Sow in February In The UK.
I‘ve seen a lot of gardening enthusiasm online and in the media in the last few weeks. Gardeners are receiving their seed orders, the evenings are a fraction lighter, we are getting sunshine some days and they want to get going. It’s as if gardeners get primaeval urge to sow at this time of year. I understand this as I feel it myself.
But though we can continue the sowing that many of us have been doing all winter, there is a need for care. The soil is very wet and trying to dig or plant traditionally is going to result in a muddy mess of ruined soil. Those of us with beds or No-Dig might also be tempted to get out there and start sowing and planting. But we also need to temper our enthusiasm.
Remember, gardening isn’t a race. I’m waiting until later in the month before I set much seed.
I’ve seen several photos online of tomato seedlings and even a few cucumbers. Unless you have a heated greenhouse this is too early for these crops. The commercial growers of long season crops have already planted their tomato crop, many will be in flower and some will already have fruit. But these guys use high tech energy-guzzling greenhouses that as gardeners we can’t compete with. We need a little patience.
How About Potato Chitting in February?
I’m also seeing a lot of gardeners chitting potatoes. Some are proudly showing long roots on their potatoes and I have to question how these plants will survive being planted with such fragile shoots and then kept healthy until the frosts are past. Personally, I don’t chit potatoes, it just means they pop up while there’s still a frost risk and present me with more headaches. My early ones are started in very large containers in an unheated greenhouse, covered with fleece when there’s a frost and moved outside when its safe to do so. It’s labour intensive, a lot of hassle, but worth it for an early crop. We dug our early spuds on June 1st last year.
But don’t try to copy that unless you are in a mild area. I’m in Sidmouth, a mile from the sea at a low altitude. If you are further north and/or at higher altitudes it’s going to be colder and the season much later. The exceptions are Cornwall, parts of Pembrokeshire, the coast of the West of Scotland and other areas that benefit from the Gulf Stream.
Sowing, Planting, Garden Location
The problem with lists like this one is that they don’t apply in every location. Generally speaking the further north, higher above sea level and further from the sea the colder it gets. And the last frost is later.
Foe example above I show how starting my potatoes in a greenhouse and brining them outside later gave me new potatoes on June 1st. Plat farmers, just a mile away from my garden, would have laughed at such a late crop . I’ve seen records where a local platman planted 4 score potatoes on February 21st. And we know from records that plat ground early potatoes were being sold locally in early May . One record shows sales in late April.
So location is vital. You need to take my dates, and those of others, and apply common sense. Modify the dates given for your area and exact location .
Here’s my list of seeds to sow now. But remember it’s my list for my area. You need to modify it for your area and local climate.
What to Sow in February
I’ve urged caution but if you feel the need to chit potatoes then I’d suggest you look at chitting earlies latter this month. Don’t rush as otherwise you’ll be looking for advice on how to protect them from frost when they emerge too early!
If you have somewhere warm to grow them on in a month or two then sowing this month is fine. But take care. It’s far to early to sow outdoor toms yet .. even here in the milder south!
Cucumbers are even more heat-sensitive than tomatoes, they hate the cold. Take your time, sow later rather than earlier. It’s easy to think we can start them in a warm propagator now .. but where can you keep them that is warm and has good light once they get a metre high?
Capsicums, Peppers & Chillis
These are all the same family. There are a few different species within it and over 50,000 different varieties. Being in the Solanaceae family, with toms, they like the warmth!
Ditto the above. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. All these seeds, toms, cues and aubergines, germinate better at around 18C/80F. Toms will germinate at 10C/50F but they take ages and are more likely to succumb to damping-off and other diseases.
Celery is another warmth-loving plant when it comes to germination. Most authorities recommend 16C/60F for germination, though I used to germinate them at around 18C as I had one very large germination area that I had toms, cues, peppers, chillis etc in at the same time. What is indisputable is the need for very good light and high humidity. The seed is very light sensitive and needs light for it to germinate. But that means it will dry out unless the humidity is high. I germinated mine in compost with a layer of perlite on the surface. This helps in sowing as the seed is extremely small, 17,00 seeds per gram, that is just visible against the white perlite. The seed is like dust! It’s easy to think the seed packet is empty. the variety I recommend is Lathom Self Blanching. Others tend to bolt if sown this early.
This is another crop that can be sown under cover now. Sow them in modules for transplanting later. Did you know celeriac was mentioned in the Iliad?
Leeks can be sown under cloches outside at this time of year provided the soil is warm and dry enough. This is the way I did it commercially when I was growing 90-100,000 plants for transplanting. Today I tend to sow a few outdoors in this way in late February or March but I also like to sow a few in “gutters”. the idea is to take a pice if guttering, drill some drainage holes in it, fill with compost and sow leek seed into it. Once the seeds have reached a decent size … a few inches high .. I dig a shallow drill (trench) in the soil outside and slide the contents of the gutter into it. Once they’ve grown on sufficiently they are used for transplanting around June time. By using gutters, and germinating in a greenhouse or cold frame, there is the potential of better germination rates.
Early sowings of leeks give a heavier crop as they are a long growing season crop. And this method is good for autumn and early winter leeks. It’s not so important for late winter crops.
If the weather and conditions permit, peas can be sown outdoors later this month. But beware mice and slugs.
An alternative to outdoor sowing is to use the “gutter” method above and germinate then peas inside or in a cold greenhouse.
I sow peas for pea shoots all year and they are a very hardy. Autumn sown ones tolerate the winter so don’t worry about them being fragile or soft. They are tough little blighters
I have to say asparagus peas are an acquired taste. Personally, I’m not that keen. But they can be sown under cover in February for transplanting when its a bit milder.
I’ll be sowing bulb onions this month. In modules for transplanting in my No-Dig beds once the onions are big enough. I’ll multiseed them, 3-5 to a module and let them make their own space once they are planted out. Experience shows they push one another apart and this doesn’t unduly affect size or shape. The variety I’ll start with is Bedfordshire Champion. Beds Champion is a large onion and was first grown over a century ago .. it’s stood the test of time!
I start mine in multi seeded modules for transplanting. But they could go direct-seeded under cloches.
I love shallots. Especially banana shallots such as Figaro which I sow in multi seeded modules. Banana refers to the shape, not the flavour, but their shape makes them easy to chop!
I grow this every month and for most of the year, it’ll germinate on a windowsill or in an unheated greenhouse. The books recommend 27C for germination, but I find it will cope with much lower temperatures .. it’s just slower to start. I suggest you try it on a windowsill. The kitchen window sill makes sense as that is where you’ll need it for cooking!
There are plenty of the cabbage family that can be sown this month. Brussels, Caulis, summer cabbage and calabrese are possibilities. But check the packet as some varieties are ideal now and some definitely aren’t. In all cases, outdoor sowing under a cloche is possible, provided the soil is not too wet or cold. But ideally, I’d sown in modules in a greenhouse or cold frame.
I’ve already sown carrots in January, in containers that are started under cold glass then moved outside later. I’ll continue this month with varieties such as Amsterdam Forcing. Roots crops, the type that grows underground as opposed to things like the beet family, tend not to do well in modules. It’s not impossible to grow them this way but it’s not easy. I don’t bother.
I’ve seen people try them in toilet roll centres etc but life is too short for that in my view.
It’s not too late to sow more broad beans, outdoors or in modules for transplanting. It’s far too early for other beans as they are all frost susceptible.
Sown under cloches outdoors this month gives parsnips a good start. Last year I grew some in modules and transplanted quite early. Most had distorted roots, it was a waste of time and space.
This is a root crop that can be grown in modules. Under cloches is possible but I’m going for modules again. Multi seeded is best in my view.
More on What to Sow in February
I’ve been sowing all winter and will continue this month. I prefer module sown, one seed per module as germination is close to 100%. Lettuce are great for filling space as crops are harvested. If you grow for leaf harvesting then you need only sow a few times a year .. perhaps as few as four times!
I keep sowing radish all season. And February is no exception. They’ll be ready to harvest faster than you might think.
Outdoors under cloches or in modules .. you decide which you prefer.
They can be sown under cloches or started in modules. Both will give summer harvests.
The range of varieties has rocketed since I first grew these really “difficult” crops. The result is that they are now much easier to grow as the varieties suit our climate. But remember one basic rule. They prefer cooler weather, so don’t push them too far in summer. Sowing now is ideal though.
Pak Choi, Bok Choy etc.
These are all variations on a theme really. So take your pick on what you sow. Check the seed packs on what suits you best. And if they bolt, cont worry, eat the flowers!
Cloves can be planted when the weather and conditions allow.
Now is a good tie to plant shallot sets.
Ditto some onion sets
Plant out the tubers when conditions are right.
That’s What to Sow in February .. its part of a series of sees to sow each month. Check out the other months under What to Grow>Vegetables>Month by Month in the menu bar above.
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