As we leave January behind, which F. Scott Fitzgerald lucidly referred to as “The Monday of Months”, it is time to look ahead to the rest of the year. Spring is just around the corner and if we want to ensure a bountiful summer, and lighten the load of this cost-of-living crisis, then now is the time to start planning.
Through the rest of 2023, Floral and Hardy will be starting each month with a list of suggestions on which food crops to sow, grow, or harvest. Hopefully, this will help us all to reduce our shopping bills, waistlines, and impact on the planet.
A kitchen staple regardless of your culinary heritage or dietary preferences, vegan, gluten-free, halal, healthy, and delicious. If you haven’t already got some growing in your garden, now is your last chance to do so; in order to develop good-sized bulbs, it needs at least 4-6 weeks of cold weather when it first goes in the ground.
You’ll want to plant individual cloves in well-drained soil so it might be worth planting them in pots if your garden soil is rich in clay. They’re very low maintenance once established, only requiring occasional weeding to remove competition for light and moisture and needing their flowers snipped so that that energy is diverted to developing their bulbs instead. Get them planted in February and you can expect to have your first crops ready by early summer.
Tomatoes and Cucumbers
The backbone of summer salads, besides leaves which we’ll be covering later in March, is the twin pairing of tomatoes and cucumbers. In both cases, you’ll want either a greenhouse or well sheltered indoor spot like a windowsill or other surface that gets a lot of direct sunlight.
Although temperatures have certainly thawed in the last few weeks, we recommend waiting until Mid-February to sow these seeds and only if you plan to move them to a heated greenhouse once potted. Assuming these conditions, you’ll want to plant tomato seeds in groups of 3 or 4 per pot and cucumber seeds individually on their broadside.
If your growing space gets chilly, you might grab a heated propagator to help your seedlings along. After a few weeks, you can put them out in individual pots filled with multipurpose compost. Ensure that neither falls below 16°C and feed the cucumbers every couple of weeks with liquid fertiliser.
Carrots are another vegetable with near-endless uses, whether that be grated into coleslaw, shaved onto salads, or roasted as part of a Sunday lunch. Certain varieties of carrots, namely the Early Nantes, can be planted in February although they will require some pampering until temperatures climb in the spring.
You’ll want to sow the seeds thinly, about 2-3 inches apart, in well-draining soil and under the cover of a sturdy cloche or a layer of fleece. You should also put out either snail and slug repellant or, if you fancy yourself an up-cyclist, a perimeter of eggshell shards to discourage would-be pests and predators.
You can continue to sow them in this way throughout the year, making sure to space each new, small batch 3-4 weeks apart and halting any new ones before the cold weather returns around October time.
That’s the end of our February round-up for growing at home, join us next week when we’ll be exploring Barcelona’s renowned Park Güell on our first 2023 trip abroad and discussing its architect, the legendary Antoni Gaudí.