Prepare your vegetable beds for early planting
February is a strange month - one day you’ll be bathed in glorious sunshine the next you’ll be wearing everything you own just to keep warm.
This week is a good week to start preparing your vegetable beds for early planting and sowing. At this time of year, you can sow broad beans, peas, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, radish and spinach; however, all of these seeds will need to be protected from the elements. A cloche will give your seedlings a good start.
Using a good quality fork, dig the ground over where you intend to plant. Dig down to a depth of about 12 inches or 30cm. Use the tines of the fork to break up any large lumps of soil and remove any stones or weeds as you go. Pay special attention to removing all of the weeds, especially their roots, as this will make it easier to weed around your seedlings as they grow.
Now lay your cloches over the soil and leave them there for about a week. This will give the soil underneath the cloche a chance to get maybe a degree or two above the outer soil temperature.
If you didn’t manage to mix any organic matter into the soil at the back end of last year don’t worry, you can still do it now but just make sure it is well rotted. This organic matter is the engine room for your plants.
Spread the manure onto the top of your soil, don’t go overboard with this, as less is more at this time of year with manure. Gently mix the manure into the soil using a turning motion with your fork. Don’t try to do this all in one go, take your time and gently work the soil until it is completely mixed.
Importantly, go grab yourself a cup of tea and a Hobnob (other biscuits are available) and have a rest - you’ve earned it.
Following your re-charge, we can now move onto the fun bit - actually sowing the seeds. You’ll find a fabulous range of seeds at Baytree in Bulbland along with cloches, tools and farmyard manure.
On the back of each seed packet will be the instructions on how deep and how far apart to sow that particular variety of seed. As an example, I’ll use a packet of radish seeds.
The instructions call for them to be planted 1cm or ½ inch deep, with the rows 30cm or 12 inches apart. Using a trowel or a seed dibber, draw a line in the soil to the required depth and then sow your seeds into the trench. Sprinkle the seeds into the trench like fine chefs sprinkle salt. Use your hand to gently cover the seeds with soil. Don’t forget to put a little plant marker into the soil with the name of your radishes next to your row.
Finally, give them a little water to bed them in and recover with the cloche.