To Do In The Northwest Edible Garden: February 2011

Well, I can feel the days getting longer, can you?  It’s starting to be light outside for an appreciable period of time after my daughter comes home from school.  I’m itching to get outside, it feels like there’s so much to do!  But I try to remind myself that the ground is still cold and wet….timing a garden sometimes requires the patience to not sow.

Mid-month is a good time to start cabbages and broccoli
Plan & Purchase:
By now you should have a pretty good idea what will be planted where.  If you’re still finalizing your garden plan, think about crop rotation so you aren’t growing the same crop in one spot year after year.  Now’s the time to order perennial plants like rhubarb and asparagus, and this is a good time to find bare-root fruit trees, bushes and canes at nurseries. They should be planted as soon as they arrive, and no later than mid-March. For best selection, order your seed potatoes at the beginning of the month, too.
  • Rhubarb Crowns
  • Asparagus Crowns
  • Bare Root Fruit Trees
  • Bare Root Fruit Bushes
  • Bare Root Cane Fruit & Vines
  • Seed Potatoes

Sow Indoors:

  • Asparagus – if you want to try growing asparagus from seed, you have to start at the beginning of February.  The seeds can take almost a month to germinate.  Personally, I’d wait a month or two and buy 1 year old crowns from a good nursery (like Sky in Shoreline) or mail order seed company (like Territorial Seed).  If you go for crowns, get a variety like Jersey Knight that grows only male spears.  The traditional varieties, like Mary Washington, have both female and male plants.  The female sets seed, and energy that the plant puts to seed doesn’t go into nice fat asparagus spears the next year.  Also, self-seeded asparagus can start to compete with your established plants, so the older varieties will require a bit more work in order to keep the patch vigorous.
  • Broccoli – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April.  I like Territorial Seed’s Hybrid Broccoli Blend.  I get a longer, staggered harvest from a single sowing.  I’ll also sow some Broccoli Raab.
  • Brussels Sprouts – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April.  I prefer Brussels Sprouts as a cool season crop, and will start them in June to mature in mid-September for harvest through fall and winter.  If you want to give them a go as a Spring/Summer crop, pick a fast-maturing variety like Franklin and watch the aphids.
  • Cabbage – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April.  Try Derby Day, Charmant or Parel green cabbages and Primero or Ruby Ball red cabbage.  Any variety with 80 days-to-maturity or less according to Territorial will be a good Spring cabbage.  The ones that take over 100 days to mature are generally better keepers and should be sown for Fall and Winter holding.
  • Cauliflower – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April.  Try Snow Crown or Amazing.
  • Hardy Herbs – now is the time to sow seed for parsley, chives, fennel, chervil and johnny-jump-ups (yes, they’re edible!)
  • Salad Greens – Time to sow more salad greens!  If every three weeks (my goal on salad greens) is too much of a lettuce commitment for you, just aim for every month.  New month?  New sowing of lettuce, etc.  That’ll give you edible salad greens in some stage of growth through October. It’s still quite early, so stick to the cool-weather cultivars.  I’m may repeat last month’s sowing of Winter DensityVictoria and Little Gem Romaine Lettuces or I may just lightly seed a flat with a mesclun mix. I like Ed Hume’s Gourmet Blend Lettuce. It’s pretty cheap seed (especially when you catch it on sale for 40%-50% off at Fred Meyer) and includes Buttercrunch (butterhead), Grand Rapids (green looseleaf), Red Sails (red looseleaf), and Parris Island Romaine (romaine/cos type).  If I let the blend go past the baby lettuce stage, it’s easy to thin it the plants out to give me nice sized heads of all different size.
  • Spinach – Just like the other salad greens: new month, more spinach.    
  • Onions & Leeks – You did these guys last month, right?  If not, you’ll want to jump on it now or we’ll be buying Walla Walla sets at the nursery together.
    Sow & Plant Outside:
    As long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged, fruiting trees, bushes and perennials can be planted out.
    • Peas & Favas – George Washington’s birthday (2/21) is the traditional time to sow peas.  I’m not sure why, it makes more sense to me to honor the original Pres by planting a bare root cherry tree.  If you plant one on non-dwarfing rootstock, you’ll probably want to chop it down when it gets too big after a few years, giving you the ability to honor him twice with one plant.  I digress.  Anyway, if the soil has warmed up and isn’t waterlogged, and if you didn’t sow peas indoors last month, the end of February is a good time to get them in the ground.  If the soil still seems really cold and wet, wait a few more weeks.  You won’t lose any time because the seed planted in warmer drier soil will sprout and grow more quickly than the sad, cold, drowned-out seed.  I like to sow one of the the Sugar Snap Pole varieties of Peas.  I no longer bother with Shelling (English) Peas.  It’s just not worth it to me to put in that much labor for that little product. I sow Board Windsor Favas.
    • Garlic – you don’t have to do this because you got your garlic in last fall so it’s already showing 6 or 7 inches of shoot, right?  Right?  Oh, well, not to worry! Just stick some in now. Your garlic heads will be smaller but you’ll still have homegrown garlic. My husband is a garlic-head, so in early October we planted Music, Spanish Roja, Chesnok Red and an Elephant-type.  We grow only hardneck garlic.  My favorite for ease of use and size of cloves is Music.  Garlic is expensive to buy, but if you start with good virus free seed cloves (ie., not the stuff from the supermarket) it’s a no-brainer to save your own garlic year after year, assuming you can keep yourself from eating it all.
    • Onion Sets – for early green onions, you can plant sets now and use them before they bulb.
    • Bare root fruit trees – these should be put into previously prepared ground while still dormant.
    • Bare root fruit bushes (currants, gooseberries, blueberries, etc.) – just like the trees, get these in the ground while still dormant.
    • Cane fruits (blackberries, raspberries, etc.) – available bare root now.
    • Rhubarb crowns – these can be had by dividing established plants or purchased at a good nursery.
    • Horseradish roots – these can be invasive!  It’s a good idea to plant them in a very large container sunk into the ground to control their roaming.  


    • Beets
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Overwintering Cabbage
    • Carrots & Parsnips
    • Kale & Collards 
    • Winter Cauliflower
    • Sprouting Broccoli
    • Chard
    • Leeks
    • Turnips & Rutabagas
    • Salad Greens
    • Jerusalem Artichokes
    • Stored Winter Squash


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