I’m not sure where February has gone: I know it’s a short month but it seems to have whizzed by. The weather has been pretty miserable in many ways but the robins’ songs and snowdrops have been welcome signs that spring is on its way.
We’ve managed to do some planting outdoors. First, we lifted some ‘Autumn Bliss’ rasberry canes out of the raspberry and bramble jungle and planted them at the end of one of the new vegetable patches. Broad beans ‘Superaguadulce’ and parsnips ‘Tender and True’ and ‘White Gem’ have also gone in.
We planted ‘Casablanca’garlic in late autumn; this was a new one for us, an eastern European hardneck variety with rave reviews. Mmm, no sign of it yet . . . so as an insurance policy, we popped in a row of the softneck ‘Germidour’ and hey presto, it’s zooming up. Better to have too much garlic than none at all.
In the currently-being-renovated utility room the potatoes are chitting away merrily amidst the tools and plasterboard. This year, we’ve opted to go back to our old favourite early ‘Charlotte’ and for maincrop, ‘Desirée’. We haven’t grown a red spud for many years but found this one to be a good keeper last time so fingers crossed.
I love the way that pots and trays of seeds suddenly start appearing on sunny windowsills in February with the promise of all those delicious summer tastes and colours. First into the heated propogator were aubergines ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Long Purple’, sweet peppers ‘Paprika Kalocsai’ and ‘Sweet Nardello’ and chillies ‘Habenero Orange’ and ‘Jalepeno’. Next, the tomatoes: ‘Moneymaker’, ‘Tamina’, ‘Roma’, ‘Red Cherry’, ‘Beefsteak’, ‘Marmande’, ‘Bambino’, ‘Red Alert’ and ‘Dattelwein.’ We certainly need to get on and order a polytunnel with that lot waiting in the wings.
The hardier seeds – red onions ‘Grenada’ and leeks ‘Musselburgh’ – are toughing it out on the kitchen windowsill.
I’ve also been planting some flower seeds. I don’t grow many half-hardy annuals (I prefer their less fussy annual cousins) but French marigolds are a must for companion planting so time for some ‘Red Brocate’ and ‘Mandarin’ along with cosmea and verbena bonariensis, both of which are fantastic for bringing in the pollinators. Sweet peas are one of my favourites, this year I’m growing ‘Royal Family’ from vegetableseeds.net.
With Roger back in charge of the main veg growing, I’m planning to dabble in a few new varieties just for fun: achocha ‘Fat Baby’, huauzontle (Aztec broccoli), claytonia (winter purslane/miner’s lettuce), ‘Golden Frill’ kale/mustard cross and ‘Magentaspreen’ giant goosefoot all promise to be interesting in the garden and kitchen. I’m particularly interested to see how the climbing bean ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ – advertised as ‘simply the best bean there is’ – goes. With any luck, my empty-looking little kitchen garden patch will be transformed come summer.
There’s not a huge amount going on in the patch at the moment but at least some of our mystery greens are shaping up to be purple sprouting broccoli . . .
. . . and here comes the rhubarb!
Meanwhile, in the odd moment of February sunshine, the snowdrops have been humming with honey bees. The photo angle is a bit crazy but those little pollen baskets are stuffed with bright orange snowdrop pollen.
By the stream, the hellebores that I took to France and brought back again are flowering as if they’ve never been moved.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s a hint of spring in the air.
Finally, a celebration: February has blessed us with a beautiful new little granddaughter. Choosing something to plant to celebrate her birth was pretty straightforward: so sweet, dainty and blonde . . . it just had to be a witch hazel, which we hope will flower on her birthday every year. Welcome, Annie Grace!