February Garden and Homestead Chores

cabbage

It’s February, huzzah! Many people I talk to don’t list February as one of their favorite months (in fact, it’s often cited as a least favorite, to which I say BOO), but I dig it for multiple reasons:

  1. It’s my birthday month, yay!
  2. I usually get to eat more chocolate, thanks to aforementioned birthday and Valentine’s Day.
  3. February is the cusp of winter and the verrrrry beginning of spring chores here in Zone 7.

Now, you may be wondering to yourself, why would #3 bring me joy? As I’ve mentioned before, winter is a breather time in the homesteader and gardener’s life: it’s a time of assessment, reflection, and planning, and less everyday physical laboring in the garden itself. Winter, including February, is about maintenance more than anything, of tools, land, animals, and homestead and gardening plans, present and future.

But February is also the very beginning of starting new things for the upcoming growing season, as well as prepping certain perennials. It’s a good balance between “am I doing enough winter maintenance?” and “oh shit it’s already spring and I haven’t done anything!” Basically, February is the time to start getting excited about the spring and summer garden!

So, perhaps (and hopefully!) you have a garden, or want to get a garden started, or are starting or continuing the self-sufficient homestead. What, then, should you be doing in February? And what, perhaps, should you get on now that you might have done in January? I’m here today to bring you a list of garden chores, as well as things to start or plant, in February. I’ll also tell you what we’ve been up to and plan to get done.

Keep in mind that we live in Zone 7, and on the colder end of it – I’ve even seen us listed as Zone 6.5, or something like it! If you live in a different planting zone, your list of chores might look a little different. Some great sources for planting and maintaining your garden according to planting zone are the Old Farmer’s Almanac, as well as your local garden and seed center (I’m going with ours, Sow True Seed, again, as well as Fifth Season Gardening, which posts monthly chores on a chalkboard behind the register. Very convenient!) We’re also super lucky here in NC to have excellent agricultural guides from local universities and extensions with great agricultural programs, so check and see if your state has something similar.

Anyway, onto the list!

February Garden Chores

If you haven’t already/January chores:

  • Plan your garden for the upcoming growing season. Decide what you want to plant, and where. Assess your canned food supplies, and what you might want to grow more or less of for preservation in the coming seasons.
  • Start any building projects, like frames for garden beds, hoop houses, cold frames, trellises, and indoor grow light setups.
  • Look through seed catalogs or on your favorite seed distributor’s website, and order seeds, crowns, and starts.
  • Prep your seed starting equipment, if starting seeds: sterilize growing containers, check lights, make sure you have what you need (mats, containers, sterile soil, and lights).
  • Start the longer-growing herbs and perennials, such as parsley, rosemary, lavender, and some perennial flowers (check your seeds for growing periods). Trust me – parsley and seeds like it take forever, so it’s almost never too early to start them.
  • Start brassicas (cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), onions, and head lettuces inside.
  • If you’ve got winter cover crops, mow ’em down before they start to flower and seed.
  • Continue to harvest winter crops.
  • Start your homebrew, if you haven’t done so, and keep enjoying and sharing your preserved foods with friends and family. Mmmm.

Actual February Chores:

  • Order your seeds, if you haven’t done so. While many businesses around here choose these months to “sleep,” January and February are some of the busiest months for garden centers and seed distributors. Don’t be surprised if they’re out of some of the things you want – we ordered ours last month, and already had to modify one of our orders!
  • Clean and sharpen your tools. You definitely don’t want to be scraping last year’s dirt crust off of your shovels and hoes when you’re trying to get things in the ground.
  • On that note, get any maintenance done on power tools and lawnmowers, unless you like standing in line in the spring.
  • Clean up and organize your garden workspace (shed, crawlspace, etc.). Again, this is not fun when you have a thousand other spring garden chores to do at the same time, so do it now.
  • Assess your canning supplies (jars, lids, the state of your canning equipment). Check your pressure canner’s pressure gauge, and recalibrate if necessary. (Your local cooperative extension can do this for you, often for free!)
  • Clean up garden debris (branches, absurd weeds, etc.).

If your ground isn’t frozen/constantly wet from freezing/unfreezing:

  • Start, or turn, your compost pile(s).
  • Start sheet mulching and prepping no-till garden beds by covering areas with tarp or other weed-smothering materials. Chicken tractors are also great for this task – they’ll tear up a section of lawn within a matter of days! Just be careful with any method that turns up or moves soil, especially if you live in a wet or rainy area, as this can encourage erosion and/or compacted soil if done too early.
  • Plant and mulch berry bushes and bare-root fruit trees.
  • Prune fruit trees and berry bushes, if you haven’t done so. You want to get this done before the warm weather hits and the trees start budding and flowering. However, check your specific type of fruit tree, as some (like peaches) need a bit more time before pruning.
  • Direct seed late winter/early spring crops, such as radishes.
  • If you have cold frames or cloches, you can start hardening off and planting brassicas and lettuces if you started them last month.

Start seeds of spring and summer crops. Remember, not all crops do well as seed starts, and should be planted directly in soil as soon as the last frost is behind you. Check your local zone and seed guides for more exact dates and how to plant, especially average last frost dates. The following can be started inside this month, assuming an average last frost date near the end of April:

  • Basil
  • Bell peppers
  • Brassicas (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kholrabi)
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce Heads
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Tomatoes

Around here, we’ve got our grow light system set up, and plan to start seeds within the next week or so. We’ve also got materials for new outdoor trellises, and plan to prep and mulch some new beds for transplanting our strawberry crowns to a new, weed-free bed, as well as (much excitement!) some rhubarb, woohoo!

Finally, husband started some mead a little over a week ago, and I started some sauerkraut fermentation. Winter is a great time (depending on your home’s ambient temperature) for fermentation of winter crops, like cabbages, and homebrewing, since you generally have more time and space to pay attention to these projects without the adding chores of spring and summer gardening.

The sauerkraut, if successful, should be ready in about a month, while the mead will hopefully be ready in time to celebrate and toast our new homesteader come spring. Epaaaaa! Busy, exciting times here.

Know any other February chores I forgot? Have any cool things you’re planting this year? Leave ’em in the comments. Until then, happy homesteading, and stay warm!

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