It’s been a long winter this year and so changeable. A cold two weeks here and a warmer fortnight there means we growers haven’t been able to rest on our laurels. On with frost-protective horticultural fleece, then off again when the sun decides to come out!
We’ll be planting bare-root plants still and adding oxygen-giving fruit trees to our plots. Choose this year to get fitter, healthier and happier. Gardening and home-growing has been proven a great way to achieve these goals – plus you’re getting some healthy, free-food at the end stage too for you or your nearest and dearests.
The Marshalls team
Our top three jobs for the month
Share the joy of home-grown legumes with peas and beans. Legume seeds are extra large, so they are easy to sow. We recommend you start broad beans now by sowing one seed to every 9cm pot or module and keeping them in a greenhouse. Expect to see seeds sprouting in around 10 days.
Know your onions
On a clear day, prepare your plot for growing onions, garlic and shallots next month. This entails ensuring the soil is free-draining yet nutritious. Adding John Innes No3 compost over the plot and forking it in will pay dividends. Sprinkle a pre-planting onion fertiliser over the soil surface too.
Nothing complicated, just find a cool, light frost free area and place your seed potatoes in a single layer in an old egg carton where they can start to sprout. Depending on when you want to plant, people will leave potatoes chitting for around 4-6 weeks and the shoots are about 2-3 cm long.
Complete list of February jobs
From mulching to pruning, the best of indoor jobs and preparing for success see expert information. Your asparagus deserves your attention at this time of year and some greenhouse-cleaning on a rainy day will put you in good stead for a pest and disease-free year. See our complete lists of jobs for February
Top of the crops to sow and plant now
Broad beans are one of the first vegetables to get going in your vegetable patch. We recommend you sow them in modules or small 9cm pots this month to plant out from March or April. Broad beans are fresh and meaty, offering a hearty ingredient to stews, salads and tomato sauces.
Broad bean De Monica - Fast-growing
Broad bean Red Epicure - Stays red on steaming
Broad Bean Longpod Sciabola Verde - Extra-long pods
In the kitchen
Sea Bass, fennel and broad bean salad
1 x fennel, trimmed and sliced
1 x lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp caster sugar
2 seabass fillets, skin on
100g steamed broad beans
1 handful of fresh mint
1 tbsp capers
- Bring a small pan of water to boil and blanch fennel for 15-20seconds. Allow to drain and rinse under cold water, drain and pad dry. Do likewise with broad beans.
- Bring together the lemon juice, 1 tbsp of olive oil and sugar and whisk, then toss half the mixture with the sliced fennel white. Put the other half of the dressing to one side and marinate the remaining half of the fennel slices.
- Heat up the remaining olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add a touch of salt and pepper to the sea bass fillets. Place the sea bass in the pan, so the skin faces down, and fry for five minutes until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn, leave for up to 1 minute more, then take off the heat.
Top tip: press down the sea bass with the back of a spatula at first to stop them from curling.
- Toss the mint, capers and reserved fennel fronds into the already marinated fennel slices with some seasoning, then share onto two plates. Carefully place the fish on top and add extra seasoning if required.
Watch out for pests and diseases
Bullfinches are beautiful birds but a bane to the home-grower, especially if you grow fruit trees. These birds take the swollen fruit buds off apples, pears and plum blossoms making quick work of stripping branches.
Marshalls fruit trees are ideal for containers and take to netting easily. With protective netting or fruit cages you can enjoy your fruit before the bullfinches do.
If you like having these pretty birds about you can divert their attention from your fruit trees with bird food suitable for this time of year. We recommend high energy Winter Booster and four-flavours Bird Suet Cakes. plus a feeders for bird food.
Get the know on potatoes
The National Allotment Society is hosting Potato Days up and down the country throughout February. These days are opportunity to talk with like-minded growers, chew the cud and also a chance to get hold of heritage and disease-resistant potatoes like the Sarpo range.
Allotment courses from the experts
The Royal Horticultural Society is looking for 10 enthusiastic growers to join its practical and informative Allotment Course. You get expert RHS tuition, a plot to grow on, and you reap the rewards of home-grown harvests to take home. Masterclasses are given throughout and weekly access to your plot is a given.