A small vegetable garden sits in front of the guest house at this elegant Georgian home in Oxfordshire
It is still too cold outside to be able to get much done in the vegetable garden, but you can start preparing your beds by adding manure or compost to the soil. Whatever you bring in to enrich your soil, be aware that some sources of organic matter can be contaminated by herbicides or veterinary antibiotics. Traces of aminopyralid and other weed killers can frequently be found in farmyard manure, which can have an adverse effect on vegetable crops the following year. If you cannot be sure that the manure is chemical free, choose an alternative such as spent mushroom compost (from a reputable organic source), rotted bark, leaf mould or your own garden compost. I have started following Charles Dowding’s no-dig method, so I simply pile a 5-10cm layer of compost onto the beds and rake it flat. If there is still some time until you are ready to plant, it is worth covering the bare soil with cardboard or some weed-suppressing landscape fabric to protect it and to warm it up by a degree or two.
February is also the time to order seeds or plug plants for the coming months. Think carefully about what you want to grow and your reasons for doing so. Do you want unusual vegetables that you cannot find in the shops? Or just a good selection of the easiest, failsafe crops that you know your family will eat? Whatever your choices, I would recommend sowing a succession of easy, swift-growing crops such as salad leaves, chard, radishes, beetroot and perpetual spinach. Growing from seed is the cheapest option and offers the widest choice of varieties, but if short of time, you can opt for mail-order plug plants from sources such as RocketRead more on houseandgarden.co.uk