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This month in the garden - 2018

February in the garden

The almond blossom shouts that spring is on it's way! February is the time to plant almost everything. Parsnips, carrots, beetroots, fennel, turnips and radishes can be direct sown into those beds that were prepared in January. As soon as you are sure all danger of frost has passed in your area, potatoes can go in the ground. Tomatoes, aubergines, chillies, peppers, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and courgettes can be sown in seed trays under cover or in the greenhouse, as can lettuce, cabbages, kale, leeks, onions, celery, celeriac and annual herbs and flowers. Leafy greens such as pak choi, rocket, mustard, coriander, spinach, swiss chard and baby leaf salad mix seeds can all be direct sown. Jerusalem artichokes can be planted now too and if you plant peas with wrinkled seeds as soon as the frost has passed you should be able to enjoy plenty of peas before the plants succumb to the summer heat. It's the last chance to plant fruit trees and trees that drop their leaves. As long as there is no risk of frost, finish pruning established fruit trees. And if that's not enough for you to be getting on with, try to keep ahead of the weeds. Hoeing them out regularly when they are small is much easier than dealing with them later when they get so big they start to take over. Don't let them creep up on you!

On Thursday 15th February, Semillas Ecologicas Españolas en Deposito (SEEeD) will be holding a seed swap downstairs in Orgiva's indoor market from 10am till 2pm. Come along and meet other local growers and bring your extra seeds to swap. Don't worry if you don't have any seeds to swap just yet, there will be plenty to buy and a whole lot to give away. Members of SEEeD will be on hand to answer all your seed saving and seed bank questions. SEEeD is a community seed bank that was formed in 2014. It is a small attempt to address the issues facing our seeds on both a local and global level. With more and more growers relying on widely available plantlets from semilleros to grow their gardens, the number of growers growing from seed is dwindling. At the same time, a few giant companies are buying up small and family run seed companies around the world and replacing many of the locally adapted varieties with generalised and more profitable hybrid and patent varieties. The net result of this is a massive, global variety loss, while at the same time eroding the seed saving skills of gardeners and farmers. SEEeD is actively collecting local strains and indigenous seeds from all over the Alpujarra and beyond. Members donate their extra seeds to the bank to be distributed to the local community through swaps, sales or just given in return for a few hours work at the bank. The seed bank is housed at Las Torcas in Tablones and there is a meet there on the first Wednesday of every month from 10am till 2pm. Everyone is welcome. Save our seeds!

Tip: If you want to expand your comfrey patch, 2 inch root cuttings can be taken now and planted into pots to make more comfrey plants.

Reader's question: I would like to grow sweet potatoes this year. Where can I get plants?
Sweet potatoes are grown from slips, and the good news is, you can grow your own! In January or February, find a nice, organic if possible, sweet potato and place it one end down in a glass of water with the other end sticking out the top. Stick three toothpicks in it to hold it in place, just like you would an avocado stone. Place the glass on your kitchen windowsill and keep the water topped up and you will soon start to see roots forming down into the water. Keep watching and shoots will start to sprout upwards. When these shoots are about 4 inches long, they can be picked off with your fingernail, taking a little piece of the sweet potato flesh with them. Pot these in potting compost and plant then out when the soil is warm. Your sweet potato in the glass will keep on yielding new shoots.

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