February can be an extremely cold month, colder even than December and January. It can therefore present a real dilemma. Should you sow and plant early, in an attempt to get ahead, but risk your seeds failing to germinate or young plants dying because the ground is too cold or too wet? Or should you be patient and wait till the weather warms up, but resign yourself to a slightly later harvest? It’s probably best to hedge your bets and do a little of each.
Plant cloves of garlic now if the soil is not frozen or waterlogged. Otherwise, wait until next month. Break the bulbs into the individual cloves and plant pointed-end up, so that the tip is just covered in soil. Space them 15 cm apart in rows that are 30 cm apart in a sunny spot, preferably with well-drained soil. You can also try to plant garlic in a container.
Sow in pots and keep in a propagator at a minimum temperature of 18ºC (65ºF) until they have germinated. Keep them indoors until you can harden them off and plant them out in April or May.
Plant tubers direct outside in a single row somewhere where the plants won’t overshadow other crops when they reach their full height. Protect with cloches if very cold.
For crops that will be ready to harvest in May and June, sow seeds indoors this month in modules or biodegradable pots. Thin out seedlings and then plant out under cover next month, in cold frames or under cloches or fleece.
Sow early varieties outside under cover.
Onions and leeks
To grow from seed, sow in modules and keep indoors at a temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) to give them an early start. Transplant outdoors in March or April.
See also: Grow green onions in your kitchen
For an early crop in April or May, sow a fast-growing variety indoors and plant out in March.
Tomatoes and cucumbers
If you’re raising plants for a greenhouse or polytunnel, sow tomato and cucumber seeds indoors now. To ensure germination, use a heated propagator and then maintain the temperature at a minimum of 21ºC (70ºF).
Winter salad leaves
Continue to sow salads such as rocket, spinach, kale, chard, mustard, and various Oriental leaves under cover in a greenhouse or cold frame.
Sow direct outside if the ground is not frozen hard and indoors in pots if it is still very cold.
Brussels sprouts, kohl rabi, and sprouting broccoli
Sow the first early varieties indoors in deep modules this month. You should be able to plant them out in April or May.
Plant shallot sets in a shallow drill about 18cm (7in) apart so that the tips are just showing.
In mild areas, sow a few peas outdoors under cloches as long as you have warmed up the soil by covering it in advance.
Sow seeds in pots or modules indoors or under cover somewhere where the temperature at night remains at about 5ºC (40ºF).
Rhubarb can be grown from seed – sown now and transplanted in May – but it’s easier to buy new sets or divide and re-plant old crowns at any time during the winter.
Fruit trees and bushes
New, bare-rooted trees and bushes are still dormant and can be planted this month provided the ground is not frozen or too wet. Prepare the site in advance by digging a hole wide enough for the roots to spread out, and check the depth. Once the plant is in position, mulch generously to keep moisture in.