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February planting guide

With January completed, certain tasks should also be complete in the garden. It is time to plant.

January was for soil preparation. With the soil prepared and the garden planned, you can start planting your garden. Care is important when planting in February, though, as frost can kill seedlings and transplants. Be mindful of cold nights; if possible, cover seedlings with an old bed sheet to prevent damage. Below are plants which can be successfully placed in February, according to the Florida Extension Service.

Broccoli takes 75-90 days until harvest. Place seeds one-half to one inch into the soil. Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Recommended varieties include Early Green, Early Dividend, Green Sprouting/Calabrese, Waltham, Packman and De Cicco. Broccoli is also very cold-resistant. Cut the head of the broccoli off before it begins to flower: the plant will produce side-shoots.

Cabbage takes 90-110 days until harvest. Place seeds one-half to one inch into the soil. Space plants 12-24 inches apart. Recommended varieties include Rio Verde, Flat Dutch, Round Dutch, Wakefield types, Copenhagen Market, Savoy and Red Acre. Cabbage can be bought as a transplant instead of a seedling. This reduces harvest time to 70-90 days. Caterpillars love cabbage, so monitor these plant for these pests. Cabbages need lots of water and fertilizer.

Carrots take 100 days until harvest. Place seeds one-half inch into the soil. Space plants one to three inches apart. Recommended varieties include Imperator, Nantes, Danvers and Chantenay. Carrots are often served fresh, in salads, with ranch dressing or as a snack. Keep soil consistently moist, so that you will have juicy carrots come harvest time.

Cauliflower takes 75-90 days until harvest. Plant seeds one-half inch to one inch into the soil. Space plants 12-24 inches apart.  Recommended varieties include Snowball Strains, Snow Crown and Brocoverde. While the plant is frost-resistant, the head is not. Tie the leaves around the head to protect it.

Celery takes a long 150 days to mature. That’s five months. Plant seeds one-quarter to one-half inch into the soil. Space plants six to 10 inches apart. Save this one for the expert gardener as it requires a lot of moisture during germination.

Chinese cabbage includes varieties like bok-choy. It takes 100 days until harvest. Plant seeds one-quarter to three-quarters inch into the soil. Space plants 12-24 inches apart. These are easy to grow.

Collards are a staple of Southern cuisine. They take approximately two months until you can begin harvesting the lower leaves. Collards like cold weather and the cold gives them a sweeter flavor. Plant early in February for sweeter collard greens. Plant seeds 10-18 inches apart and one half to one inch deep.

Cucumbers can be broken down into two categories: picklers and slicers. Good pickling varieties include Eureka and Boston Pickling. Slicing varieties are more common and include: Sweet Success, Poinsett, Ashley, MarketMore 76, Straight Eight and Space Master. Picklers can still be eaten fresh, they are simply better suited for pickling. Bees are required for pollination. Space rows widely, giving 36-60 inches between rows. Plant seeds one to two inches into the soil.

Eggplant is an incredible producer, yielding 200 pounds of produce per 100 feet of space. (Peppers, for a comparison, only yield 40 pounds per 100 feet.) It takes 90-110 days until harvest, though the time can be shortened to 75 days if using mature transplants. Eggplant can be fried, stewed, boiled, eaten raw and prepped in many other ways. It is rich in fiber and is often used in vegetarian dishes.

Endive, or “Chicory” as it is more commonly known in the United States has several varieties. You may know it for the Radiccio variety: these red and white leaves can often be seen in bagged salad mixes. The root of a chicory plant has been used as a coffee substitute as far back as Ancient Egyptian times, but most notably it was used during the Civil War when Union blockades prevented Southern states from importing coffee. Common gardeners prefer the endive for its leaves, which can be prepared a variety of ways. Plant seeds 8-12 inches apart. The plants will be ready for harvest in 80-95 days.   

Kale takes 75 days to mature. Plant seeds one half to one inch into the soil. Space plants 12-18 inches apart. Recommended varieties include Vates Dwarf Blue Curled, Tuscan (lacinato), Winterbor and Redbor.  Kale is a nutrient, vitamin and mineral rich food. When harvesting, rob leaves from the outside, never more than one-third of the plant at a time. The kale will continue producing leaves.

Kohlrabi take 70-80 days to mature. They are a high-yield crop. Plant seeds one-half to one inch into the soil. Space plants three to five inches apart. Recommended varieties include: Early White Vienna and Purple Vienna.  The root and leaves are edible and red and white varieties are available. They are rather like radishes or turnips and can be prepared similarly. These are an excellent candidate for raised bed gardening.

Lettuce should be planted soon; they are not cold-tolerant but require enough cool weather to avoid becoming bitter. They take 50-90 days until harvest. Seeds should be sewn very shallowly, no more than one-half inch deep as the seeds require light to germinate.

Mustard Greens come in a wide variety of plants: Southern Giant Curled, Florida Broad Leaf, Tendergreen, Giant Red, Green Wave and Mizuna are all suited to North Florida. Mustard greens are easily damaged by frost, so cover these when the temperatures look like they’re going to drop too low. Cool weather, however, makes these sweeter. Mustard greens mature quickly, taking only 40-60 days until harvest.

English peas take 50-70 days until harvest. Plant one to two inches into the soil. Space plants two to three inches apart. English peas need only half as much fertilizer of other plants— too much will inhibit yield (this is why we plan). They also love the cold, so a warm winter is not a good planting time for English peas.

Peppers include sweet and hot varieties. Transplants are often more successful than starting from seeds. Pick peppers as they become mature: plants that are picked often produce more. From seeds, plants take 80-100 days until harvest. From transplants, the time can be as little as 60 days.

Potatoes take 150 days to harvest. Like celery, this is a long wait. However, potatoes are a bit less needy, so an expert gardener is not necessary. Plant three to four inches into the soil. Space plants eight to 12 inches apart. Plant certified seed pieces with at least one eye. These love fertilizer, water and a little bit of cold weather. These are good candidates for raised bed gardening: build the bed higher and higher as the plant grows to encourage more yield.   

Radishes are a fast-producing and tasty crop. Plant every two weeks for a continuous supply. Radishes are often used raw in salads. For a sweeter taste, do not allow these to over-mature and do water frequently. Plants mature from seed to harvest in a lightning-fast 20-30 days.

Tomatoes are a staple of the hobby gardener. Most gardeners prefer to use transplants as these are a slow-growing crop that can take up to 110 days to mature. When placing a transplant, go ahead and place  the stake or tomato cage. Putting the support system on later could damage the plant.

Turnips are a high-yield winter crop, providing 150 pounds of produce per 100 feet of planting space. The roots are often boiled with a little salt, pepper  and pork fat. They can be treated like potatoes when cooking. Turnips reach maturity in 40-60 days.

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