One man and his plot - February

We can sense the next growing season is close and anticipation sets in, writes Chris Collins. In short, we can’t wait to get sowing!
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Chris marks the start of the growing season with some early crops under glass

Winter is a very beautiful and atmospheric season but once February arrives most of us are looking forward to winter’s end. So a quality every good gardener needs, is the ability to be patient!

I usually hold fire on seed sowing until the end of the month or early March – and spend the time instead picking out some of this year’s heritage seeds from the Heritage Seed Library Seed List.

Once again, a fantastic range of heritage vegetable seeds have been brought together by the team at Ryton and seed guardians throughout the country. Follow my progress from seed to plate with these amazing plants on the allotment when the season gets going.

Starting on the seed sowing

There are some seeds that can be sown at the end of February if you just can’t wait. I tend to kick off with aubergine, chilli and peppers, germinating them in propagators at home (pictured). These plants benefit from a head start, though it’s quite a job protecting them and keeping them healthy all the way until mid to late May when they can go out on the plot or balcony.

I’ll sow a few more winter crops later in the month too. Mizuna can go into the propagator as can winter salad crops, these will be germinated in modules and then transferred to the allotment.

Divide and conquer your borders

My big job for February is to lift and divide plants in my narrow herbaceous border that runs along the side of the plot. I have some quite exotic plants in here, including a collection of cannas, and it’s going to be interesting to see how they fared as a result of the cold snap in December.

I always enjoy revamping this border and it’s good practice to lift and divide herbaceous perennials ever three or four years as it produces fresh, vigorous growth. It also stops the centre of the plant becoming hollow as the plant spreads with age – and is a low cost way to create new plants for free.

Lift your plant and identify the buds and growing tips on the roots, and separate the root ball so there’s a few buds on each section. This is done by using garden forks back-to-back and prizing the root ball apart, or you can use an old pruning saw. Once plants are divided, they can be potted up and grown or replanted.

Making new plants reminds me that spring is not far away. So, as the days get longer the excitement begins to grow: let the fun begin!

Chris Collins - Head of Horticulture