February Garden Chores
At first glance, February doesn’t seem like a busy garden month. It’s cold and rainy, and still very much the dead of winter.
But! It’s also just a mere matter of weeks before the first seeds get planted into the ground, and so it’s high time to get everything ready. Cleaning up and preparing the garden for the plants that will go in later in the spring can be a dirty full-time job, but it’s absolutely essential to get it done if you want to have a successful growing season.
Here’s what I’ll be doing this month!
In the Garden
Lift the remaining rutabagas: The rutabagas, those hardy Swedish root crops which I let overwinter in the garden, are probably extremely woody and tough by this point. It’s time to take them out of the ground and gift them to the chickens.
Uncover the garden: We’ve had the garden covered with plastic sheeting since practically last year. It has looked incredibly ugly and I have hated it. But, hopefully, most of the weeds and thatch will have been killed and reabsorbed into the soil, giving us a clean slate to work with.
Define and build permanent beds: My ultimate goal for the garden is to implement no-till permanent raised beds. I know the terms “permaculture,” “back to Eden,” or “lasagna gardening” can sometimes be thought of as hippy-ish, but honestly it just makes sense to me. Rather than tilling and weeding and amending the entire garden area, slowly depleting the nutrients and eroding the soil despite what we amend it with, we’ll layer defined planting areas with newspaper, manure, leaves and compost and then cover it all with wood chips. These will slowly break down, feeding the ground beneath them, and we’ll just keep adding more good stuff on top. The soil will be healthier, it won’t be compacted, we’ll weed and water less and we’ll be using free, sustainable and natural materials.
Dig in lots of well-rotted organic matter: February is the month of love, and gardens love manure! They love compost! And I love gardens!
Cover with tarps again: Just in case. To kill any weed seeds. But it won’t stay on all summer this year, I promise!
Sow early seeds indoors: Despite the cold weather outside, now is the time for me and other maritime gardeners (zone 8, right on the cusp of a and b) to start sowing seeds inside. I’ll be starting all my tomatoes, eggplants and sweet peppers this week, as well as my first sowing of brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cabbage. I’m also going to start some green onions and lettuce, and hopefully get them into the greenhouse by early next month!
In the orchard
Prune the fruit trees: This chore honestly scares me little, because you’re basically cutting off parts of your tree and what if you do it wrong? The trees could die! But really though, pruning actually helps reinvigorate trees, reduces problems with pests, and boosts fruit production. Jasper and I are going to start with the easy stuff, like getting rid of suckers, dead or injured branches and water spouts, then we’re just going to give them a haircut!
Prune the marionberries and blueberries: As with the fruit trees, so with the fruit bushes.
Feed all the fruit trees and bushes: Now is the perfect time to feed all your fruiting things, too. I spread a very little bit of wood ashes from the fireplace around the base of our apple and plum trees, and I will be adding well-rotted compost to all these, then a layer of mulch of some kind.
In the greenhouse
Clean up, clean out: The greenhouse is so, so messy. And dirty. And filled with stuff that we didn’t put there but never bothered to take out, either. So first and foremost, we need to clear it out completely, and then give it a really good deep clean. Scrub the walls and sweep out the cobwebs. And weirdly, I can’t wait.
Dig in lots of well-rotted organic material: The greenhouse has a dirt floor, so we plant directly into the ground. That means we need to pile on more manure and compost each year, to keep the good stuff coming.
Cover walkways with something: Last year, not knowing any better, we laid straw over the walkway in the greenhouse. The plan was just to keep the dust at bay. Then we turned on the automatic waters, and the walkways grew! We had a nice crop of grass all along the walkway, from seeds that managed to survive in the straw. So, this year we’ll either be putting down cardboard and wood chips, or plastic. Something. Anything but plain straw.
Direct sow the carrots and radishes: I don’t know if these will start growing in an unheated greenhouse in February, but the weather has been rather warm and I’m up for an experiment. So I’m going to sow some and see!
February is the shortest month of the year, and it certainly feels that way as we scramble to get everything done on time. But it’s a good scramble, knowing that at the end it will be spring. Spring!
And then we will be in thick of it, happy with dirt under our fingernails once again.