February’s monthly gardening post is all about the first seed starts for the 2018 season, which include alliums, artichoke, spinach, and beets. Let’s dive on in.
Information is like compost; it does no good unless you spread it around. ~Eliot Coleman
February in terms of the garden is basically like gah, can you believe I’m actually planting seeds for the 2018 season?! It’s here! It’s here!!! Can you actually believe it’s here and it’s all happening?!
Ok, done. Now what?
It’s exciting because I plant the first indoor seeds for our Zone 4 garden, but there are only a few things worth starting this early. So, the excitement wanes and the enthusiasm wallows while I slowly settle back into the reality that it’s still, in fact, winter. And while the weather is perfect for cabin getaways and ice fishing weekends, one almost forgets what warm weather feels like and wonders if it shall ever come again. Literally, 30-degree days feel like a heatwave. In fact, we’ve been dealing with ice storms lately, so spring could not feel farther away. But, alas, I have faith in her return, so I start alliums, artichokes, spinach, and beets with unabashed glee.
Before we get into February’s Monthly Gardening, did you get a chance to read January’s Monthly Gardening post? If not, you can find it here. I ask because a lot of what’s started in January spills over into February . . . at least for me. Remember those pots I said I was going to clean? There are still plenty in the root cellar, shed, garage, and every other nook and cranny I was able to stuff them in with dust and dirt. The sowing and planting dates are set, but do you think I have the garden layout complete? Nope, not even close. A lot of what applies in January easily carries over into other monthly gardening chores, so check it out if you’re looking for more gardening fix in February. There’s also info about seed starting supplies, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about today.
Monthly Gardening: February—Plant and Pause
Other than carryover from January, I’m starting the first seeds for the 2018 season, which includes alliums (onions, shallots, and leeks), artichoke, spinach, and beets. Because there’s not a whole heckuvalot going on in February’s monthly gardening, let’s deep dive into varietals, shall we?
Alliums (onions, shallots, and leeks)
I start all of my alliums from seed with the exception of garlic, which I plant the largest cloves of that year’s harvest in the fall. The advantage to starting onions from seed is not only that you have a large variety of options, but you get to enjoy them as soon as they start to get overgrown by snipping the green parts to keep them at about 4–5 inches. Throw those bad boys on potatoes ya’all! Plus, onions seem to always do better started from seed in my experience. I order most of onion seeds from Johnny’s.
‘Patterson’ is an extremely long-storage yellow onion. He’s a workhorse of an onion that gets me through the winter. For this reason alone, most of the space allotted for onions in my garden goes to Mr. Patterson.
‘Redwing’ is a long storage onion with excellent color that retains through the winter. She’s easily Mr. Patterson’s match for winter storage of her variety and beauty.
What ‘Ailsa Craig’ lacks in storage she makes up for in her size. She’s a colossal, mild onion. Use her up before moving onto Mr. Patterson.
Also not known for her storage, ‘Sierra Blanca’ produces large, mild white onions that I love to throw in fresh pico de gallo. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to add her to my seed order. I did have some leftover seeds from last year, but we’ll see how well she germinates as onion seeds are not known for their longevity.
Because I forgot ‘Sierra Blanca’ in my Johnny’s order, I tossed ‘White Globe’ into my Baker Creek cart. Also referred to as ‘Silver Ball’, he’s supposedly one of the best white keepers.
Not typically grown in our area as the sweetest onions are those that are overwintered, I still grow it as a spring planting and find it quite delightful.
This is an early purple-skinned mini onion that’s just delightful as a baby bunching or picked at golf ball size for salads and pickling. These are ready to go just in time for when the winter storage onions are running out.
‘Gold Coin’ is a flat, yellow cippolini onion that is superbly sweet when roasted. You know when Kenji writes about his deep and abiding love for this onion, she’s the real deal.
‘Evergreen’ is the most winter-hardy bunching onion Johnny’s offers. Truthfully, I meant to order ‘Nebachan’, which has a sweeter, milder flavor, but wouldn’t you know, I forgot when ordering (seems to be a theme this year). I had seed from last year’s fall/winter planting, so that’s what we’re growing, folks!
‘Bandit’ is a leek and leeks are essentially overgrown green onions with milder, more delicate flavor great for cooking in soups and pasta. However, I also came across a recipe in an issue of Saveur where leeks were stuffed and then grilled, and I feel like that just needs to happen.
‘Conservor’ is a shallot with long storage. Last year, I grew ‘Ambition’, which was lovely, but ‘Conservor’ replaced ‘Ambition’ in Johnny’s selection this year, so we’ll see. Shallots are beyond lovely. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from Bon Appétit by Alex Delaney who says, “Shallots, quite frankly, are spectacular. Some would even say the greatest allium there ever was or will be.” I couldn’t agree more!
You guys, artichokes bring me immense happiness in the garden and my tastebuds. Although they’re typically grown as perennials in Zone 7 and warmer, I grow them as annuals, and they have a forever spot in my heart and garden. The old-timers around here always stop by and ask, “What the hell are those spiky bushes, anyway?” I always proudly tell them they’re artichokes and I love them . . . the artichokes, that is.
If you let them flower, they’re simply stunning, though I pretty much eat all of them. There’s hardly anything I love more than picking one, steaming it, dipping its leaves into melted garlic butter with fresh lemon, scraping the mild flesh with my teeth, and washing it down with a crisp sauvignon blanc. Ah, yeah, it’s divine. There was also that time I preserved them . . . total pain in the ass but also totally worth it come winter. The variety I grow is ‘Imperial Star’ which is a green artichoke that was specifically bred for annual production and produces well-developed artichokes the first year from seed; a star, indeed.
Good ol’ spinach is among the first harvests and ‘Reflect’ spinach never disappoints. Spinach germination can be finicky when direct sown, so I always start it indoors. Spinach salad with hot bacon dressing, anyone?!
I know beets are not everyone’s favorite, but gol’ darn, they should be! Last winter, my sisters and I made a beet juice cocktail with whiskey, ginger, and lemon, and it was spectacular. I’ve been wanting to share a riff on a salad recipe from a local restaurant in my area that is roasted beets and salmon over a bed of greens with chevre, dates, and pistachios. Yes, please. The varieties I grow are ‘Red Ace’, ‘Burpee’s Golden’, and ‘Chiogga’.
Alright, whew, that’s it for February’s Monthly Gardening. Happy growing, friends.