February tips


Oh the relief, it’s February! The bleak mid winter is officially over and, as we head into a cold, but mercifully short month, the first glimmerings of spring seem, on a good clear day, within reach (on a cloudy day, it’s still all you can do not to hitchike to Heathrow and force yourself on a plane to Miami).

To the gardener, this means that the collection of scruffy cardboard and empty plastic food containers you’ve been hoarding Gollum-like under the stairs can finally be employed as seed-sowing receptacles. Yes, you can finally clutter all available surfaces with soil again – the joy.

This year I’m all about thrift – no more expensive and fancy online purchases of contrived-distressed pots, clocks, candles and obelisks, not to mention seed-sowing mats, and propagators with twiddly bits. This year, if I haven’t had to wash it out first, I’m not interested.

A couple of takeaway latte cups are now growing chives – particularly pleased with their integral lid that will keep the seeds nice and cosy until they germinate –  and an old Persil washing tablets container (painted with Farrow and Ball Clunch, of course, I’m not embracing junk quite that readily) is about to sprout forth with Sweet Genovese basil. Clear plastic fruit punnets make  the perfect mini propagator  for lettuce seedlings – plus it makes you feel less guilty about the grapes that flew thousands of miles in them in the first place.

The local deli has been more than keen to get rid of its plywood crates – once they’d worked out why this loon was so keen on their rubbish – and when those enormous olive oil tins on their top shelf are empty, they’re mine, so don’t even think about it. Recycling, people, I know I’m late on this one, but finally I’m catching up.

Of course, this now means that I can’t look at any object now without mentally working out its suitability for plant-growing. Kitchen colanders, bread bins, dustbins and the Ikea storage boxes stuffed with kids’ toys – perfect to make a self-watering container from surely? – have all been jealously eyed whether they still have a useful function or not.

If my garden doesn’t look like a fly-tipped layby by June I’ll consider it failure.

btw, I know that picture, above, isn’t of February but May last year, but do you really want to see a photo of a coffee cup? Didn’t think so…


Seeds to sow now on a windowsill in an old fruit container, latte cup or, ok, plant pot – you’re so 2009

  • Lettuce – great for the winter-phobe because it germinates in about 3 days. I’m growing and harvesting this inside for a quick early-spring crop.
  • Chives – to pop in the ground outside in March
  • Basil – bit early, I know, but my March-sown basil never seems to get fully into its stride so this is an experiment.
  • Tomatoes, chillis, aubergine and sweet peppers if you have a heated greenhouse to grow them on in – I don’t so these can wait until March
  • Radishes
  • Salad rocket (not wild rocket, wrong time), Mustards, Mizuna and Mibuna – sow now inside for quick spring salads
  • Oh, and you can start chitting your potatoes if you do that…