Monthly Growing Guide By Alan J Hartley For
Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

February
February sees the start of seeds sowing in earnest. These days I feel most things are best started off in Modular Trays that have lots of individual cells that enable the seedlings to develop nice little root-balls which donít get damaged when the plants are transplanted out into the Allotment. There are a few exceptions to this and put simply they are all root vegetables. Parsnips, Carrots, Scorzonnera and Salsify are best sown directly where they are to grow and thinned out to prevent the roots from ďForking.Ē

Seeds To Sow.
Seeds to be sown this month under cover to aid germination are; some Cabbage varieties such as Red ones, Celariac, Chick Peas and Parsley (including quite a lot of other Herbs.)
Early Carrots and Parsnips can be sown directly in the ground, but are best under Cloches.
If you want to try something a bit more unusual you can sow Kohl Rabi and Cape Gooseberries, but they will need to be kept in Frost Free conditions. Tomato seeds can be sown at the end the month for plants that are to be grown on later, indoors, in a greenhouse, but they will definitely need some heat to germinate. 
If you didnít start your Broad Beans off last Autumn there are several varieties that you can sow now. Sometimes it can be better to start them off indoors as Mice love to eat them before they germinate.
Another thing you can start now if you didnít back in the Autumn, is Sweet Peas. They can be a little difficult to start into growth because of the tough coating on the seed, but there are a couple of different ways that people deal with this. ďChitting,Ē the seeds, is one method. This is a fiddly job even if you have good eyesight, and basically you need a sharp knife with which you make a little nick in the shell of the seed. This helps the shoot to break out. Another, easier method you can try is to put the seeds in a saucer of hot water for an hour to soak before sowing them. This softens the shell and again makes it easier for them to shoot. 
Sweet Peas should be sown directly into 3 Ĺ inch pots, or better still into the long peat pots, or even old Toilet Roll inners, that will rot in the ground, as they have deep roots and donít like being disturbed. Then, when big enough, 2-3 inches, or so, you should pinch out the tips and stand the plants in a cold frame, or cold greenhouse, until planting time comes around in April.

You can also plant Shallot sets outside now and if you are planting one of the modern varieties of Jerusalem Artichokes like Fuseau, they can go in as well.
If you are going to grow any Yacon, you can cut out 2 inch cubes from the crown, that include growing buds, of any old plants that you have kept over winter and plant them up in 5inch pots in the greenhouse where it is frost free. Also it is time to start off Oca (Oxallis Tuberosa) in small pots in an unheated greenhouse, or cold frame.

Pruning.
The end of February is when things really start to happen. It wonít be long before early buds start to break and so is a good time to hard prune Grape Vines. The Vines will fruit on buds breaking directly from the main stems. Consequently, all other growth can be removed. Figs are also best pruned now to prevent Die Back. Autumn Raspberries that have not already been cut down hard are best cut down to the ground now. Autumn varieties fruit on new shoots, so all of the old stems can be removed. Summer fruiting varieties SHOULD NOT be pruned now, or else you will not get any fruit! Most flowering shrubs, if you have any on your Allotment, should be pruned immediately after flowering with the exception of Buddleias that can be cut down very hard at the end of February. Unlike some plants they will shoot from old wood that looks as though it has no life in it!

Fruit Pests.
Another job for Fruit Trees at this time is to put Grease Bands on Apples if you didnít do it in the Autumn. These are intended to stop the crawling bugs from climbing the stems and eating into the young buds. If they do, you will get Apples that may look fine on the outside, but they will have grubs inside them, in the very centre of the Apple.

Other Jobs.
It wonít be long before life returns to your Rhubarb, so it is a good idea to cover the Rhubarb Crowns with forcing covers. These are usually made from Clay and are simple cylinders with a lid on. They are very expensive to buy, so most people donít bother to Force Rhubarb these days, but it does make the shoots a lot more tender and sweeter.
March is when the greenhouse will be in a lot more demand with lots of seeds being sown, so the end of February is a good time to think about disinfecting your greenhouse and cleaning the glass. The end of Winter is not far away and things are starting to awaken. With this in mind towards the end of the month, as the weather starts to warm a little, you can begin to wake up things like Fuchsias, Geraniums, Chrysanthemums and Dahlias. Donít be too keen to give them too much water though, or else they may rot and donít put them outside yet.
As the old Chrysanthemum Stools begin to shoot you can take cuttings from them to generate new plants. A lot of growers actually then use these fresh cuttings and discard the old Stools to keep disease at bay and their stock fresh.

 


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