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GardeningVegetables in February

Vegetables in February

All that is really needed to grow organic vegetables is seed and a healthy soil. Perhaps you’ve already ordered seeds for this season, but if not, give some thought to where they come from, who produces them and how they are produced. Most seeds sold in the UK are produced in hot climates using cheap labour, and a lot of them are F1 hybrid seeds which lead to plants that cannot produce viable seed. If seed is saved from F1 hybrid plants it can be sown but the resulting offspring will be very variable and not necessarily what you are after. If you want to save your own seed then you will need to use open pollinated seed in the first place.
Some great seed catalogues like Vital Seeds, Real Seeds and the Seed Cooperative grow their own open pollinated seed but also use other British growers such as ourselves to produce seed for them. This means that the seed is produced in soils and climates that are similar to those that it will be grown in, rather than being produced in a hot dry country and then grown in a mild, wet country such as ours.
Plants pass on information through their seed, this information has come from the environmental conditions that the plant has experienced when growing and forming the seed. This means that when that seed is sown the following season, it will have the information necessary to grow healthily under similar conditions to the previous years that it was produced—this is how plants can adapt to certain growing conditions if you save seed from them year after year. So, it is best to get seed that has been produced under similar growing conditions to what you will be growing it under.
As for healthy soils, that’s at the heart of what we do, and although we don’t always get things right, we are striving to build the healthiest soils that we can whilst being able to produce vegetables in a practical way. We use green manures as the basis of improving soil health, but we are also beginning to try out foliar feeding plants with the idea that a healthy plant will be able to reach it’s maximum potential for photosynthesising, and this will lead to more root exudates feeding the soil life. More soil life in turn then leads to all sorts of benefits to plant growth—from increasing water and nutrient uptake to improving soil drainage and producing more nutrient dense vegetables.
One of the things we will be trying out this year is a wormery. We always rely on worms in the soil, but this year we are farming them to produce wormcasts (also called vermicast) that we will use to make foliar feeds to spray on the plants and to soak our plants in before planting out. We may also try inoculating some of our beds with the vermicast before planting. We have the worms in a tub at the moment—with some compost, woodchip, vegetable leaves and hay to provide food for the worms. We top it up with vegetable leaves and make sure it is moist but not too wet. The worms in a wormery are specifically composting worms, and the ones that we are using are Dendrobaenas rather than the anecic worms such as lobworms which are more commonly found in garden soil and are deep burrowers, or the endogeic worms that burrow horizontally.
We will be making a small windrow type compost heap for the wormery, but you can buy special wormery “bins” as a way of keeping it all a bit tidier. This is a new thing for us, so I will keep you posted about how it goes and the ways that we will be using the wormcasts to create healthy plants and in turn healthy soils.

WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: If you have a heated propagator in a naturally well lit place: peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, beetroot, shallots, spring onions, spring cabbage, salad leaves (see above). If you do not have a heated propagator, best leave sowing until March.


OUTSIDE: Wait until next month!

INSIDE: Most of the indoor space should have been planted up with overwintering leaves, herbs, and early crops like spring onions, early garlic and peas.

OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH: If the weather dries, continue preparing beds for the spring by mulching with a little compost and covering with black plastic if you are planning on planting them in early Spring. Wash any polytunnel or glasshouse to make sure maximum levels of light are getting through to the crops. Try to finish off any “winter jobs’’ this month before sowing, bed preparation, planting and weeding begins to take over!

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