Grow It Yourself - February

Grow It Yourself Though St Brigid’s Day (Feb 1st) is considered the start of spring, it’s really still winter outside in the veggie patch. Come February I am always itching to get started with my seed sowing and of course you can get lots of vegetables started in seed trays on a sunny windowsill indoors.

The problem is that when they are bursting from their pots and ready to be planted out in a few weeks time, it may be still too cold to do so.

The relative lack of light (due to the short days) can cause problems for seedlings at this time of the year – tiny seedlings literally strain to reach the light and can end up getting too long and “leggy” as a result. Patience is the ultimate virtue for the GIYer.

Though winter stores are looking increasingly bare, we’re glad for the full freezer and the work we did chopping, shelling, podding, blanching and cooking last harvest.

GIY IrelandHaving your own produce is a fantastic boon at this time of the year, when supermarket shelves are laden down with imported, unseasonal produce. As we move further and further from the winter solstice, we gain about five minutes of daylight at either end of the day and comparable dollops of optimism. Roll on spring!

Things to do this month

To Do

Turn over the soil only if the weather is dry – if the soil sticks to your boots it’s too early for digging! Keep off the soil to prevent soil compaction - use timber planks to stand on for access. If you have not already done so order/buy your seeds, spuds and onion sets. “Chit” or sprout seed potatoes – put them in a container (e.g. used egg carton or empty seed tray) and leave them in a bright warm place. Check the pH of your soil – you can buy a soil pH testing kit in any garden centre. Lime your soil now if required (to reduce acidity in very acid soils), particularly important in your brassica bed.


Finally, we can sow some seeds. On a sunny windowsill indoors, in a heated greenhouse or on a heating mat: sow celery, globe artichokes, celeriac, leeks, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, aubergines, peppers/chilli-peppers. In polytunnel or greenhouse: beetroot, Brussels sprouts, summer and autumn cabbage, carrots, leeks, lettuce, radish. Outside: Weather permitting you can try planting out broadbeans, spinach, kohlrabi, onion and shallot sets, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnip and early pea varieties.


Winter cabbage and cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale and leeks.

Recipe of the Month – Kale on Toast

Ok, so kale isn’t one of those vegetables that makes you salivate with excitement, but it’s worth a second look for the following reasons. It’s a nutritional powerhouse, being high in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and rich in vitamins K, A and C. It’s also a hardy wonder crop that is easy to grow and will churn out leaves right through the worst of the winter. The key to making it delicious is to use plenty of seasoning, oil and garlic in the cooking.


• 1 kg kale
• Salt n’ peppa
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 3 garlic cloves peeled and sliced

Remove the stalks from the kale and boil in lots of salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic gently until brown. Add the kale and season generously – cook for five minutes. Serve on sourdough or focaccia toast and drizzle with olive oil.

Tip of the Month – Lime

Most vegetables prefer to grow in a slightly acid soil with the exception of brassicas which prefer alkaline conditions. Adding compost/manure to soil to improve fertility each year, eventually makes the soil too acidic for most vegetables and particularly for the brassicas.

Traditionally therefore GIYers add lime in the spring to the beds where they will plant their brassicas to reduce acidity. Never add manure/compost at the same time as lime, as they react badly together. How much lime to add depends on the type of soil and it's pH value (buy a pH testing kit in any garden centre), but typically 1lb per square yard.


Michael KellyMichael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY Ireland.

GIY is a registered charity that inspires people to grow their own and gives them the skills they need to do so successfully. There are 80 GIY groups around Ireland and 6,000 GIYers involved.

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© GIY Ireland 2011 – all rights reserved.

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