Gardeners world top tips is a collection of the most useful snippets from BBC’s flagship gardening show. Whether you’re just starting out or an old hand, this book offers up a wealth of advice that will have you growing juicier fruits, more blooms and more vegetables than you could ever dream of.
Sow Vegetable Seeds in February
February is the ideal time to sow vegetable seeds, especially cold-hardy varieties such as onions and onion family crops. This allows you to start early and utilise your greenhouse or polytunnel for more growing space until the main planting season in March.
Tomatoes are a particularly good choice for indoor sowing in February, although it is also possible to direct sow tomato seeds outdoors. Germination rates are higher in this way.
Other vegetables to sow in February include fava beans, snow peas and shelling peas. You can also sow corn salad, mustard greens, chard, spinach and snap peas. Sowing these at this time of year means that you will be able to harvest them before the end of the season.
Basil is an easy herb to grow indoors, in pots or on your balcony. This a versatile plant that is a great addition to summer meals and provides a deliciously aromatic scent and taste.
It grows well in soil with a pH between neutral and slightly acidic, and it thrives in nutrient-rich, compost-enriched soil. Make sure the soil is properly drained, as excess moisture on the leaves may cause fungal problems.
In the spring, sow basil seeds outdoors after the last frost. Alternatively, you can start them off inside in February and keep them under grow lights until they’re ready to transplant outside.
Once your seedlings are established, water them regularly – once a week if you’re using a watering system and twice a week if you’re handwatering. Aim to water right at the base of the plants so they can establish strong roots.
The chilli plant is one of the easiest to grow but it does need a little bit of help from us. In this episode of gardeners world, Monty Don shares his top tips for growing and picking your own chillies at home.
Whether you’re growing in the ground or a container, it’s important to get your seedlings off to a good start. Ensure that the soil is loose, well-draining and rich in organic matter. A teaspoon of 2:3:2 fertiliser to each planting hole will also promote strong healthy growth and a bumper crop.
Once the seedlings have grown into a few pairs of true leaves, transplant them outside or into a larger pot. Chillies prefer a moist but not wet growing medium, and it is best to let the soil almost dry out between waterings.
If your plants are infested with pests like aphids, whitefly or red spider mite, use a Pyrethrum spray to control them. Alternatively, hang yellow sticky traps among the plant.
Aubergines are a great addition to any kitchen garden as they are easy to grow and produce delicious fruit. They are also an excellent source of dietary fibre, potassium, manganese and copper and are high in vitamin B1, B6 and minerals such as magnesium and iron.
As with tomatoes, peppers and chillies, aubergines do best if grown in a greenhouse or sunny conservatory. Sow seeds in February and give them plenty of warmth and sun to help germination.
When they are strong enough, plant them out into a sunny position in well-drained soil that is topped up with a good quality multi-purpose compost. Space plants about 50-60cm apart and cover with a cloche to acclimatise and protect against frost.
Regular watering, misting and feeding will ensure your aubergines are a success. Some varieties develop small spines on the stems, so care is needed when handling them.