February really can feel like the dead of winter. The hazy glow of the holidays has passed, the deary weather shows no signs of abating, and, for gardeners, the joys of the garden still seem hopelessly far off. But despair not! Think of yourself like a seed, dormant in the soil, gathering what it needs to sprout at the first sign of spring. Take this month to prepare for the garden you want to have this year, so that when March arrives, you'll be set for the first spring sowings (and, as a spoiler, you might even have some sowing to do now!). In the coming weeks, mark these tasks off your calendar:
Seeds need water, light, and nutrients to grow. And you, in order to grow them, will need a few essentials too:
- Sanitized equipment: It's important to make sure that this year's plants aren't compromised straight away by last year's diseases. If you're reusing pots, trays, or other tools, make sure they're sanitized at the start of the season. Spray hydrogen peroxide and wash it off, or combine one part hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts water in a bucket and soak your tools.
- Indoor seed starting: If you're starting any seeds to transplant this year, take stock of what you have in terms of heating pads, grow lamps, and trays. To prevent damping off (a fungal disease that preys on new seedlings), avoid overwatering and provide
- Soil testing: In order to know how best to amend your soil and which plants are best to grow in your garden, you'll need to know your soil type: is it loam, clay, or sand? A more detailed test can be acquired from your local extension office.
- Soil: Stock up on organic compost and potting soil. Some garden centers may not have their spring stock of potting soils and seed-starting mixes available yet. Or, if they do, you may find that it's outside, frozen solid. So, plan a little extra time for locating and, if necessary, thawing out any mixes that you do not have on hand. It's important to invest in high-quality potting soil. Young developing plants are still taking stock of their situation and if they are stressed out before they go into the ground, they won't be as productive, and they'll be planning to go to seed as quickly as possible.
- Row cover: The unsung hero of the garden, row cover is invaluable for protecting early spring crops from the cold. It will also shield your plants from pests and extreme sunlight in summer, and return as an insulator again in the fall. You may also need some wire hoops to build your easy garden fortress. Plus, row cover can be placed directly over direct-sown seeds to help keep the soil damp and reduce watering chores.
- Seeds: Last but not least! Have your seeds on hand now so they're ready to plant. Wondering what to plant and when? Read on...
GET READY TO SOW
Believe it or not, depending on where you are located, there may already be seeds to sow this month or shortly thereafter. Since the soil is not generally workable at this time of year and the temperatures are too cold for germination, most of these are seeds with a long growing season that can be started indoors, and then even more can go in come March. You can read more about direct sowing seeds here.
- What to sow: Read our article on how to grow alliums from seed for tips on lots of popular varieties like onions, scallions, leeks, chives, and garlic chives. There are also some herbs that could do with an early start time, like parsley and thyme, flowers like echinacea and snapdragons, and veggies like celery. Read our article on starting tomatoes and peppers as well. Soon after, you'll be able to start eggplant, kale, and cabbage. Seeds like poppies, spinach, and peas like to be direct sown good and early. Read more about these varieties here. And for easy variety selections, try our early-season seed sets.
- When to sow: Be sure that all your planting dates match up correctly with your frost dates. Check out our garden planning post for more help on this.
These simple steps will help take the pressure off later on. They'll help get you ready for your garden and your seeds, and to be prepared to welcome your new plants. A whole new gardening chapter is just a few page turns away!