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February 12, 2024
Mid-February transition 2024

Drone photo by Charles Dowding 12th February 2024, Homeacres, Somerset UK

Good to sow now

In much of the UK, winter is easing. We can start sowing under cover,see my new video for advice on that. Plus we can make sure ground is ready for outside sowing and transplanting from mid-March. With no dig this is easy and quick, compared to prepping sticky, dug soil.

Under cover, sow any of broad beans, peas (for shoots in particular), spinach, lettuce, onions, salad onions, cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, cauliflower, turnips, beetroot, radish and Florence fennel. Also globe artichoke, parsley, coriander and dill.

You can sow all of these later as well! Just the vegetables I look to sow asap are those which flower in early summer. Early sowing of them means you have more harvest before they rise to flower. Spinach, turnips, Florence fennel and kohlrabi are the ones. Spinach is true spinach, not the biennial leaf beet.

My mix of potting compost (potting soil in the US) is 20% worm compost, 20% old woodchip. 60% year-old homemade compost
My mix of potting compost (potting soil in the US) is 20% worm compost, 20% old woodchip. 60% year-old homemade compost - all sieved to around 5mm.

Succeed with germination

Seeds germinate more strongly when kept warm night and day. That's why I recommend keeping newly sown trays in your house. Most seeds do not need light to germinate, so you can park sown trays in a corner of a warm room, even stacked on top of each other. Just for a few days until you see little shoots emerging. That's when they need the light.

Celery is an exception because its seeds need light to germinate, and you could sow a few now. Scatter seeds on top of the compost, water gently then cover the tray with glass, or place in a polythene bag.

  • In the UK's cooler north, perhaps wait until early March before sowing.
  • Outside sowings are still risky except for broad beans and salad onions.
  • Maybe keep a mousetrap in your propagation area. One mouse can eat a lot of seeds.

With warmth, you can sow aubergine, pepper and chilli, because they take longer than tomatoes. I sow tomatoes around 10th March, and cucumbers mid-April.

These trays are all sown with different seeds and are stacked in my conservatory (20th Feb. 2023) where night temperatures average 13°C/55°F, compared to 5°C/41°F in the greenhouse
These trays are all sown with different seeds and are stacked in my conservatory (20th Feb. 2023) where night temperatures average 13°C/55°F, compared to 5°C/41°F in the greenhouse

Ignore advice like this!

Words fail me when I see seed companies sending emails like this. All of us are afraid of getting behind and so wing too late. However any suggestion of so win cucumbers in February is doomed to Phalia, a waste of seeds, time, and space. Learn to not believe everything you read or hear! Four my son win dates, this page of my site has them all through the year, and so does my Calendar for 2024.

From a well known British seed company, email 12th February 2024
SThis should say "Stay warm in February and sow cucumbers in April"!! This is from a well known British seed company D/T. Brown, email 12th February 2024

Equally misleading is this description I saw on Amazon for a worm compost:
“100% Organic Vermicompost - FORTIFIED WITH Worm Castings”
The word vermicompost actually means worm castings.

These lower and older leaves are not working for the plants any more, so the plant releases its resistance to pest and disease damage, slugs in this case
These lower and older leaves are not working for the plants any more, so the plant releases its resistance to pest and disease damage, slugs in this case

February jobs

Be tidy

It’s quick to remove any lower leaves which are growing old, their job done and then they attract pests because the plant releases its pest resistance. This is overwintered cabbage, which are now growing nicely, and always the main slug damage is on those lower leaves, so I snap them off and remove both leaves and slugs to the compost heap. This reduces the number of slugs hanging around - because they’re not drawn to eat healthy leaves. It’s also a chance to remove any weeds.

Cabbage near end and cauliflower far end. They have been under this cover since we transplanted them in late September, from sowing in late August. The cabbage should crop by April and the cauliflower in May.
Cabbage near end and cauliflower far end. They have been under this cover since we transplanted them in late September, from sowing in late August. The cabbage should crop by April and the cauliflower in May.
If you see weeds as thick as this, you absolutely need to hoe or rake shallowly asap! Use any tool to disturb the surface, before the weed seedlings grow too large.

Weeds

The new warmth and light are triggering germination of weed seeds. If you see a lot, like this, you must act before they overwhelm your plants -and you! Keep beds, clean of weeds all the time, so that they are always ready for new plantings. Plus no weeds will have a chance to drop hundreds or thousands of new seeds.

It's rare tht I see weeds so thick as this, and it's my fault. They are from seeds in compost that we had 'parked' last autumn, because it was ready and we needed the pallet space for making new compost.We emptied this mature compost on soil near to where a lot of wildflowers had been seeding. Some of those seeds got picked up in November, when loading the compost to spread it.

Almost no weeds have grown in this bed since we planted garlic 30th September. Also on that day we sowed mustard Synapis alba which grew 60cm tall, then was killed by frost and you see its stems on the surface.
Almost no weeds have grown in this bed since we planted garlic 30th September. Also on that day we sowed mustard Synapis alba which grew 60cm tall, then was killed by frost and you see its stems on the surface.

Prepping no dig beds

It's just a few weeks before we shall be popping new transplants in the ground. Also sowing carrots and planting a few early potatoes.

Now is a very good time to avoid any rush in the spring. Unless you still have snow!

1 Look for and remove the few weeds that have overwintered or are starting to grow now.

2 Level and smooth the surface of beds with gentle, sideways passage of the rake. Pass no deeper than 3-4cm / 1.5in. It's easy to do a nice job, because winter frost has softened the lumps of compost. No dig beds are now looking really good. They are ready to receive new plants all year long.

Starting to rake a bed which has homemade compost on top which includes some largr pieces of woody material, which I glick into the paths. Spinach on right was planted August.
Starting to rake a bed which has homemade compost on top which includes some largr pieces of woody material, which I glick into the paths. Spinach on right was planted August.

Harvests

I'm just starting to pull salad onions, which normally in February are not ready. These were so in late August last year and have overwintered without any protection. You can also harvest them by cutting the tops and then they regrow. Leave about 5 cm of stem in the ground. Onions are so versatile!

In the polytunnel. overwintered salad plants are just starting to grow more. I now water weekly, after giving almost none in January.

One clump of multisown White Lisbon 'spring onion', just over five months since sown
One clump of multisown White Lisbon 'spring onion', just over five months since sown, harvest of 10th February

Sowing compost, trays

For seedling success, do you need compost created especially for seeds to germinate?Often not!

  • For little seeds, ensure good drainage by adding up to 50% vermiculite, perlite, small charcoal or coir, to your normal multipurpose/potting compost.
  • For most seeds including onions and brassicas, you can use 100% potting ('multipurpose') compost.
Multisown onions 17 days since sown, germinated in the house for one week, CD60 tray filled with my compost mix
Multisown onions 17 days since sown, germinated in the house for one week, CD60 tray filled with my compost mix

My 60 cell and long life module trays are available in three sizes – 15, 30 and 60 cell. Cell size is the same in all of these trays. The only variable is number of cells per tray.

In the UK they are available from Containerwise and The Refill Room

Ireland, Quickcrop

The Netherlands for EU: The Farm Dream who also sell my books and 2024 Calendar, and Denmark: FantastikeFroe

Norway: Lindholm gård

North America: All About The Garden and they sell my long handled dibberalso

Australia and New Zealand: Sow your Seeds (Tasmania)

The small cells of my trays are large enough to grow peas, to transplant at 2-3 weeks after sowing, depending on propagation warmth
The small cells of my trays are large enough to grow peas, to transplant at 2-3 weeks after sowing, depending on propagation warmth

Murray Fest Midwest

In Iowa.
I am delighted to be the festival's headline speaker, giving no dig talks on 29th and 30th June.This is the Midwest’s premier poultry and homesteading festival.

I know it's a busy time of year to leave your yard or homestead! Even so I hope to meet many of you there.

No Dig translations

The French versions appears 28th February, published by / editeur Marabout.

The German version by Bertelsmann has been out three months and is selling well.

No Dig French cover Marabout 2024
No Dig French cover Marabout 2024
No Dig book German cover 2023
No Dig German cover 2023
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