February: it’s the shortest month, and the most misspelled. It’s also when, according to modern folklore, a large hibernating rodent emerges from his den to tell us whether spring will come early (Shubenacadie Sam says it will in 2014).
Winter may seem hard to shake, but underneath that blanket of frost an impending miracle is about to unfold. And, as we wait, we prepare.
- Start your season off by growing micro-greens in trays. These tiny, baby versions of vegetables and herbs are delicious and easy to grow and reportedly pack a powerful nutritious punch.
- Finish and send off your order for seeds and any new equipment. Some companies offer bonus seeds or special discounts for buying early, so check around to get the best deals. See our list of seed suppliers and associated web links for inspiration. Be sure to look for ‘clearance’ sections, too – a potential treasure trove!
- Test previous year’s seed packages to get a sense of their germination potential. If germination is low, consider replacing the package or planting more when sowing directly outside.
- Start slow-growing crops such as celery, onions and leeks, eggplants and peppers now. Don’t start too early, of course – the general rule of thumb is allow about eight weeks before the expected planting date for slow growers, and six weeks for faster growers. A planting plan is handy in this regard. Here are some helpful tips for starting seeds.
- Plan on a few quick wins, by planting fast-growing vegetables like arugula, radishes, lettuce, bush beans, snap peas. These early crops will give you a boost of excitement and encouragement to wait for the late summer crops.
- Take stock of the vegetables you’ve been storing over the winter. Separate out any that are beginning to rot or shrivel and put them in your compost pile.
- Revisit your calculations and metrics by asking: Are you planting the same-sized garden this year, or expanding? Are you planning to try something new – row cover or old window frames? Are you rotating your crop placement in the garden? Are you going to try companion planting or a new approach like lasagna gardening? Remember the old adage: prior planning prevents poor performance!
A version of this article originally appeared on 4 February, 2013.