February always feels like the first real month in the garden to me. Sure there’s a few things to do in January, if you want. But my first real round of seed starting happens around mid-month. Count forward 6 weeks and it’s the beginning of April – the perfect time to put hardy brassica transplants out in the garden. Four weeks after that, at the beginning of May, tomatoes (by then in gallon pots) will move outside under cloches.
So even though it’s still chilly, and doesn’t quite feel like Spring has sprung, gardeners everywhere are stretching their arms above their head and rubbing the sleep from their eyes.
Let’s get going. The season is upon us.
Plan and Purchase
By now you should have a pretty good idea what you will be growing, and where you will be growing it. If you’re still finalizing your seed order, check out my choices for great varieties by price point or learn how to navigate a seed catalog without going crazy.
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. Also consider mature height of your plants, and keep the tall stuff to the north of the short stuff. I sell a downloadable Garden Planner and Journal, should you need one to keep track of this stuff.
Unless you really like studying chemical exudates, I advise being fairly informal about companion planting. Just do what I do and shove calendula and nasturtium and marigold seeds everywhere and let nature take it from there.
If you didn’t do it last month, 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. These 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.
Order or Buy:
- Rhubarb Crowns
- Asparagus Crowns
- Bare Root Fruit Trees
- Bare Root Fruit Bushes
- Bare Root Cane Fruit & Vines
- Seed Potatoes
Prepare and Prune
This is a great time to start thinking about warming your soil where you’ll be planting heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers. If you aren’t opposed to using plastic in the garden, pin black plastic down over your beds for extra heat and weed suppression. Clear plastic actually warms soil even better, but allows weeds to germinate like crazy.
If you plan to leave plastic on your beds the whole season and just plant through it, make sure you have a soaker hose or something under the plastic.
You can also erect your low tunnels and cloches at this time of year, to help winter-water-logged soil dry out and warm. By the time your transplants are ready, the soil will be too.
There’s still time to handle dormant season pruning and spray fruit trees with dormant oil to control mites, scale and overwintering buggies. See the January To Do list for a recipe for my DIY All Natural Dormant Oil Spray For Fruit Trees.
Whoa boy, here we go.
- 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 or mail order seed company.
- Artichokes – I like Green Globe and Violetta.
- Broccoli – early varieties should be started under lights this month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April. I like Waltham 29 and Belstar. 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.
- Cauliflower – early varieties should be started under lights mid-month for planting out under a cloche at the beginning of April. I like Snowball.
- Kohlrabi – Kolibri is a good variety for spring, but I like this crop better and find it easier to grow for fall.
- Chard, Collards and Kale – if you want early cooking greens you can start them now. If your space under lights is limited, wait and sow them out under a cloche next month.
- Hardy Herbs – now is the time to sow seed for parsley, lemon verbena, chives, fennel, borage, chamomile, chervil and johnny-jump-ups (yes, they’re edible!)
- Salad Greens – Aim for a salad green sowing 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.
- Spinach – Just like the other salad greens: new month, more spinach. Spinach bolts quick as a wink, so don’t wait on harvesting it.
- Onions & Summer 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. You’ll want long-day or day-neutral onion varieties if you’re in the Northwest. No short-days.
- Peas – start these inside in a length of gutter, or sow them out and cover with a sheet of clear plastic to keep them warm and not-soggy until they germinate. Then cloche them and plan for early peas.
- Tomatoes – depending on how much work you are willing to put into your tomatoes, you can start them in February with plans to up-pot to gallons if necessary and transplant to a pre-warmed, tunnel-cloched bed in late April or early May, depending on weather. If you just don’t want to put that much work into it, wait a month. I like Sweetie, San Marzano and Striped Roman.
- Hot Peppers and Sweet Peppers – I start these at the same time as tomatoes, knowing they will need more babying than maters and will get a spot in the greenhouse. I have the best luck with King of the North bell peppers.
Sow & Plant Outside
As long as the ground isn’t frozen or waterlogged, fruiting trees, bushes and perennials can all be planted out.
- Peas – George Washington’s birthday (2/21) is the traditional time to sow peas. If the soil has warmed up and isn’t waterlogged, and if you didn’t sow peas indoors, 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 or cover with a piece of clear plastic to keep the heat in the soil and the rain off it.
- Favas – Direct sow anytime. I like Broad Windsor.
- 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.
- Salad Greens, Spinach, Asian Greens & European Greens – sow out the hardiest greens under cloche for the earliest possible direct seeded new crop greens. If the weather sucks they’ll take their sweet time germinating.
- Radishes – the little globe ones. Try a pretty mix like Valentine’s Day.
- 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.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Overwintering Cabbage
- Carrots & Parsnips
- Kale & Collards
- Overwintering Cauliflower
- Sprouting Broccoli
- Winter Kohlrabi
- Turnips & Rutabagas
- Protected Salad Greens, Asian Greens and Euro Greens
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Stored Winter Squash
- Stored Potatoes
Are you eager to get going on your garden? I know I am!
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I’m definitely excited! I can’t wait for all the green to come back!
I’m looking forward to a nice garden this year! I’ve already started my tomato, eggplant, basil and pepper seeds. All of my tomato seedlings already have their first set of true leaves. Now I just need to actually work on the places all these plants will live! Planting time for some of these guys is around a month away and my garden areas are looking very neglected.
Thanks for keeping me on track (tho I have yet to sprout my peas yet, or even inventory my seeds!). I AM pruning and cleaning up the orchard like never before and had to go looking for your DIY dormant spray. Here’s the correct link: http://nwedible.com/2014/01/to-do-in-the-nw-edible-garden-january-2014.html
Thank you, and have a lovely day playing outside!
Thanks Janet, good catch! I’ve updated the link.
Sara B says
Yesterday the garden was covered in ice and melt water. Today, at least an inch of snow already. We’ve got about a month lag here. St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional date for peas, though I never quite seem to be ready and the ground is often still too wet. So ready to see the ground again—even more ready to start working it.
I’m really torn about fruit trees. We plan on planting at least 6 – our property is barren – but it’s about to get REALLY cold. I’m NE of Everett, so we’re looking at daytime highs in the upper 20’s, lows in the single digits. I mean, obviously I’m not planting if the ground is frozen solid, but… what’s safe for a fruit tree?
Should I really be considering fruit trees right now? Should I hold off until the frost danger is no more? Should I just purchase them, and keep them as bare-root until the ground is warmer for a few days in a row?
I’d love to get this done ASAP, but I’m worried about throwing a bunch of money away because it’s too cold. =/
Erica / Northwest Edible Life says
The one thing you absolutely should not do is buy them and keep them bare root unplanted through a hard freeze. The trees themselves can handle the cold but if the exposed roots freeze all bets are off and they very well might not come back. At the very least, heal them in so the roots are deeply mulched and protected from freezing. That said, I’d wait. You won’t lose any time if you put them in the ground in 3 weeks instead of now, and you won’t have to stress about the oncoming cold.
I am excited to enter year 2 in my garden, after learning much last year. I am wondering… what do you do to prepare your soil in raised beds for spring? I have 4 beds with some semi-successful overwintering crops, one with some red clover (and asparagus), and a few more that just sat empty or covered in straw through the winter (I was underprepared and indecisive in the fall). I saw on your post that you cover with black plastic in February (for the heat). But, what do you do with your raised bed soil before spring? mix in compost? turn/till? magic spells? nothing? I am thinking of mixing in a good layer of compost and planting as usual. Any advice out there?
Erica / Northwest Edible Life says
Typically I work compost in in the fall as part of the coop cleaning. In the spring I add organic fertilizer (Steve Solomon’s recipe that contains lime) and work that into the top few inches of soil. If I hadn’t amended with compost in the fall, I would add it in the spring too with the background fertilizer.
Sara Schroeter says
I’ve had good luck the last couple years just pre-sprouting my peas in damp paper towels and carefully planting them. That said I’m going to seed a few pots indoors ala your gutter method and do a comparison to see if I get to harvest any sooner that way.
Yes, super excited to get going this season – I can just taste the some homegrown veggies. Thanks for the reminder checklist! I’m going to try to make savoy cabbages be early cabbages… we’ll see. Kale under the grow lights has four true leaves, time to harden them off and put them outside!!! KALE!
Thank you for this Erica! Also thanks for the info on fixing my Erie cast iron pan at the NWFGS class. The turn and burn instruction is just brilliant.
The lemon salt is amazing and I didn’t have any flax oil so I just rubbed ground flax around in my hot le cruset tiny fry pan and it worked just fine for now, got a nice gloss.
Sincerely, Nichole from Seattle
This year we’re in a new home where I can actually dig in the yard (yay!!!). So, I’m getting some seeds started (broccoli, raab, the kale varieties, cauliflower, and parsley). I’m torn on starting the tomatoes just yet since I’m not so good at babying seedlings. I might hold off on that. Hoping to get some drainage dug and my front (spring/fall & winter) beds dug in the next week so I can get the radishes in & start some salad greens! 🙂