Preparation for spring can get under way in your kitchen garden this month in cool- and mild-winter regions. There may still be snow on the ground in some areas, and freezing weather and the danger of frost can continue into March. But if the weather is turning towards spring, now is the time to ready your garden. In the northern hemisphere, cool- and mild-winter regions include zones 7-9.
Vegetable and fruit garden checklist of things to do during February in zones 7-9:
Plan and design. Before planting, sketch a base plan for your kitchen garden. Consider the location of house, garage, shed, fences, walls, and large trees that will cast shadows across the garden. Vegetables require at least 6 hours of sun each day to thrive. Locate your garden near a water source if you live in a region with dry summers.
Seed orders. Order seeds and plants for spring planting now.
Soil preparation. Prepare garden beds as soon as the ground can be worked. Test your soil. Add lime if your soil is too acid. Mow winter cover crops and turn them under if the soil is dry enough to cultivate. Spread compost over beds that you will plant.
Check winter mulch around perennial vegetables, brambles, and fruit trees and add more if needed. Press frost-heaved plants back into the soil.
Greenhouse in cold regions. Check seed packets to determine the number of days from sowing to germination. Sow hardy and half-hardy vegetable seeds about 6 to 8 weeks before seedlings can be hardened off in the coldframe or under cloches in the garden. Do not start seeds indoors too early.
The first seeds to be sown will be cool-weather spring corps such as salad greens and lettuce, beets, celeriac, bulb onions, parsley, radish, and members of the cabbage family. By the end of the month, sow the seeds of tender warm-weather summer-harvest vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers that require 12 weeks or more indoors. When the seeds sprout, place them beneath bright lights.
Water trays of seedlings with a copper-based fungicide to prevent damping off. Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days to prevent the buildup of diseases in the damp atmosphere.
Coldframe in mild-winter regions. Ventilate the coldframe when the outside temperature rises above 40ºF (4ºC). Close again before sundown. If the soil is dry in the coldframe 6 inches (15 cm) down, provide a slow, deep watering directly in soil on a warm day. Avoid wetting plant leaves.
Sow cool-weather spring crops in the coldframe in milder regions: salad greens, beets, onions, parsley, cabbage family.
Plants that have been started in the greenhouse can be hardened-off in the coldframe before being planted out in the garden.
Vegetables harvest. Continue to harvest winter cabbage, Brussel sprouts, leeks, parsnips, root crops and sunchokes. Be sure to lift every piece of sunchoke tuber. Store tubers in a paper bag in a cool, well ventilated shed or garage.
Harvest asparagus spears where they have emerged and become pencil thick.
Start forcing rhubarb by covering the crowns with a deep layer of leaves or leaf mold, and then cover with a pot.
Sow vegetables outdoors. At the beginning of the month, warm the soil in areas of the garden intended for early sowings by covering the soil with polyethylene. You can also warm up the soil with cloches, floating cloches, or horticultural fleece.
Start sowing vegetables without protection if you live in a mild area. Check seed packets to make sure the varieties you are planting are suitable for early sowing. Few seed will germinate if the soil temperature is below 45ºF (7ºC), so use a soil thermometer to check before you sow. Delay planting until the end of the month in cold gardens.
Transplanting out. In warm gardens, set out quick-growing cabbage family transplants (cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, kale). Sow broad beans and early peas. Plant early potatoes, onion sets, and shallots. Cover them during hard freezes.
Direct seed. Late this month, direct-seed lettuce, endive, and other leafy greens in the garden and prepare a bed for carrots. Make a second sowing of early peas. Protect early plants with cloches or hot caps. Plant new strawberries and protect them from frost if you plan an early crop. Divide established mint plants and replant the runners in rich soil.
In cool gardens, sow broad beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, onions, parsnips, radishes, and spinach and cover with cloches.
Prepare growing beds. Prepare a bed for new asparagus plants. Turn under well-rotted manure and garden compost set out in autumn. Plant asparagus crowns.
Dig well-rotted manure into celery trenches. Prepare runner-bean trenches by digging in compost or well-rotted manure.
Fruit trees and vines. Prune fruit trees after each storm. Remove broken and damaged branches. When the weather permits, prune apples, pears, berries, brambles, and grapes. Complete pruning while the plants are still dormant.
Spray fruit trees for over-wintering pests with dormant oil spray when the temperature rises above 45ºF (7ºC)—but while plants are still dormant. Spray peaches, nectarines, and almonds with a copper-based fungicide to prevent attack of peach–leaf curl. Spray apples and pears prone to scab infection. Spray trees when buds begin to swell. Apply a second spray to trees susceptible to peach-leaf curl about 14 days after the first application.
Fertilize established berries and fruit trees if not done last month. Sprinkle sulphate of potash around the root-feeding area of apples, pears, and plums to encourage good fruiting later in the year.
Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries. Cut back to ground level the canes that fruited last autumn. Prune back the canes of raspberries planted last year to about 12 inches (30 cm) above ground level. . Tip back summer-fruiting raspberries to just above the top wire and cut down newly planted canes to about 9 inches (23 cm).
Prune back the stems of newly planted and two-year-old gooseberries by about one-half. Spray gooseberries and black currants for gooseberry mildew.
Plant fig, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Plant currant bushes and raspberry canes, and water in thoroughly.
Check mouse guards and tree wraps.
Mulch all newly planted trees, bush and cane fruits with well-rotted compost.