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10 Feb 2020

Top veg-growing questions during February

Want to grow your own veg but need some help, our expert advice from Which? Gardening is what you need

Whether you're new to growing veg or a seasoned veteran, the answers to the questions most asked during February will help you grow your best crops ever.

February may still be too early to sow veg outdoors but you can start sowing hardy veg, such as broad beans and spinach, in module trays or small pots indoors, ready for planting outside in March when the weather begins to warm up and light levels rise.

Get in-depth advice about how to grow veg, including help from no-dig expert Charles Dowding, in every issue of Which? Gardening magazine. Try it for only £5 online or by calling 029 2267 0000.

1. How can I keep rats out of my compost heap?

Rats often go in compost heaps in winter, as they enjoy the extra protection and also a source of food. You can help keep them out by putting your heap on a chicken-wire base to stop them tunnelling in. Avoid putting in cooked food scraps, as these are particularly attractive to rats. Turning the compost will disturb any rats and make the heaps less hospitable to them. Always wear gloves when handling the heap.

Learn more about how to deter rats from your garden.

2. I'd like to grow winter salads next year. When do I sow?

Lettuce, mustard, spinach, chervil, claytonia and land cress are all good choices. Try growing a variety of plants so your salads have different flavours, colours and textures. Sow the seeds in module trays in mid-September so you'll be ready to plant them outside once they're big enough. Cover your plants with fine mesh or fleece to protect them from the worst of the cold.

Read our advice about how to grow winter salads.

3. What's the best way to harvest kale?

For as long a harvest as possible, pick kale leaves from the bottom of the plant upwards. The new growth will be undamaged by this method, and will continue to produce new leaves for picking later on. Any yellowing leaves should be picked off and composted, as they've stopped growing and can become a food source for slugs.

4. Can I mulch around winter veg?

Yes, you can mulch around winter veg, such as Brussels sprouts, by spreading organic matter (compost or well-rotted manure) around the base of the plants and on the bare soil in between. Winter salads are better mulched in autumn before planting, as they're planted more closely than brassicas and other winter veg.

Visit the Which? Gardening helpdesk for advice about all things gardening.