Get more from your gardens in spring by starting seeds indoors and gardening under cover outdoors.
February means the garden season is one month closer. It also means it is time to tap maple trees. Mid-West gardeners know that by the end of February they are just 12 short weeks away from the last frost date of May 15. Planting seeds of herbs, vegetables and flowers is generally done indoors between the end of February and the second week of March. It is also possible to plant some vegetables directly in the garden this month as long as they are protected by cold frames or tunnel houses.
First Two Weeks of February
February 1 is the day to tap sugar maple trees. Not all gardeners do this, but it is a great way to add both maple syrup and maple sugar to your pantry. Sugar maple trees are slow growers, so if you do wish to plant some in your yard, it is best to choose ones from a nursery instead of starting from seed in spring. Be sure to fertilize and water them to encourage faster growth.
The first Thursday of February is the time to start seeds of tomatillos which are commonly called husk tomatoes. This is the fruit that gives salsa verde its special flavor.
Starting Warm Weather Crops
The third week of February is a good time to plant seeds of warm weather vegetable crops such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Keep these indoors in flats under grow lights and provide bottom heat if possible.
These warm weather plants need heat to thrive. The grow lights will keep them from getting too bushy. Position the grow lights about six inches above the top of the seedlings.
Tunnel Houses, Cold Frames and Unheated Greenhouses
The last week of February tunnel houses, cold frames and even unheated greenhouses should have the snow dusted off and be brought into use.
The potatoes that were sprouted indoors during the end of January should be growing nicely enough by this point to plant. The ground inside of the unheated structures should be workable. Dig a trench about a foot deep. Fill the trench with grass clippings, leaves or straw. Lay the sprouted potatoes on top and cover with the same type of materials. Cover the potatoes just enough so that no parts of the potatoes or sprouts show. Top this with about an inch of dirt. If needed, sprinkle a little water on top. By May or June you will have harvestable potatoes.
Young plants of onions and cabbage can also be planted now in these structures. If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country where the hard freezes are over, simply plant these crops directly in the ground.