“Spring has sprung, and the daffodils are daffodillying”
Yes, in those embarrassing words of my second year school principal, Springtime has finally arrived.
The garden is just about to go into overdrive, with only four weeks until March is upon us, which is the craziest month of the gardening calendar really. So, to get you prepared for the weeks ahead, here’s some jobs to keep you busy in the garden before the serious planting begins.
- It’s time to get chitting. Your early potatoes will do well if you chit them for a few weeks. Chitting potatoes is simply the process of letting your seed potatoes sprout before planting them. The best way to do this, I find, is to place them on a cold windowsill that gets plenty of natural light. I usually place them in old egg cartons, and leave them there for a few weeks to sprout. The shorter and thicker the little sprouts are, the stronger your plants will be.
- Prune your fruit bushes if you haven’t already. Remove any winter damage and cut them into shape, trust me, this is especially necessary with the invasive fruits like blackberries or raspberries, otherwise they will take over come mid-summer and you will be doing battle with them all year. And believe me, I’ve done battle with blackberry bushes before, it’s not pretty, the thorns win every time.
- If you haven’t began to warm up our soil, you should really do that now. Spread some manure over them, cover with a black plastic or mypex and the soil should warm up in about two to three weeks, this will help ensure your seedlings get a good start in life.
- SOWING TIME!! Yes, this is the time we can begin to do some serious planting. Leeks, tomatoes, chillies/peppers, lettuces, aubergines, celery and beetroot will all benefit from being sown indoors in February. Outdoors you can plant broad beans, kohlrabi, parsnips, and some early pea varieties.
- There’s not much to harvest in February, unless maybe you have a polytunnel/glasshouse or have some overwintering crops like Purple Sprouting Broccoli or winter cabbages.
- Build yourself a cold frame if you can, this is one of the things I have on my long list of garden projects. A cold frame will come in very useful in late spring/early summer for transplanting seedlings outdoors. You can’t just move a plant from the heat of a windowsill or greenhouse straight outside, the poor thing would be traumatised. You need to harden the plants off first. Usually this means, placing the seedling outdoors for a few hours a day until they have acclimatised. A cold frame will make this process much easier and help extend your gardening season by a few weeks every year.
- If you don’t have a compost heap by now (I won’t shame you but I want to), this is the time to do it. You will need it, compost is the heart and soul of your garden, it’s gardening alchemy, turning waste into gold.
- Dig. Do lots of digging. If your soil isn’t to wet or frozen, get it dug now.
And just one more tip, enjoy this month, it’s a lean one but the garden is beginning to wake up. Watch how the evenings get longer, watch your spring bulbs begin to come up, listen out for the birds singing early every morning, it’s lovely (I feel like I’m about to break into joyous song à la Maria in the Sound of Music).
It’s invariably our coldest month here in Ireland, today we have snow on the mountains, it’s currently 2 degrees Celsius outside (36 Fahrenheit for my American readers). However, the dark winter months have passed us by, the gardening year is getting into full swing now. Get your affairs in order and go out and enjoy the world this spring.
I command it.
All hail Queen Fiona