February is the start of a busy growing season for a polytunnel gardener, as the climate inside a polytunnel can be a few weeks ahead of the great outdoors and the time to start sowing summer crops has arrived.
Although the weather in February can be bitterly cold and windy, and heavy snowfall and frost are not uncommon, the temperature inside a polytunnel will be on the rise as the sun is warmer and daylight hours are getting longer.
KEEP AN EYE on the soil temperature – Although this can be on the rise this month, February can bring air temperatures low enough to freeze plants even under cover.
TIDY UP overwintering crops – Remove weeds and dead or diseased leaves, and keep a lookout for slugs and caterpillars. Some overwintering crops, such as peas and broad beans, will soon need extra support from canes and strings. Crop Bars are great for supporting canes.
Take advantage of this time between winter and summer crops to PREPARE the polytunnel beds and borders. Keep the soil fed with compost.
Some serious SEED SOWING can start this month. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers and melons benefit from a long growing season and, if started off in February, these plants will be able to take full advantage of a hot May and June. Many seeds benefit from being started off in pots or modules in a heated propagator or on a warm, light windowsill. Try using a Polythene Cloche inside your polytunnel to act as ‘double glazing’, keeping the frost off and saving on heating costs. You can sow hardier crops straight into the polytunnel borders, such as carrots and rocket.
A polytunnel can also be put to GOOD USE by raising hardy outdoor crops a few weeks before they go outside. These sowings will thrive with the extra protection and warmth that a polytunnel provides, putting them ahead in the growing game.