Although described as late Winter, February traditionally is the coldest month of the year. It is also period of rapid change. The month starts off bitter cold, occasional snowfalls and severe frosts are not uncommon, yet usually there bright and sunny days too, by the end of this month there may be a mild spell that fools you into thinking Spring is just around the corner. Despite the ever changing weather there is always plenty to do, I work on the theory that little and often is the best course, just an hour here and there can really make a difference. There are still plenty of leaves around where do they keep coming from? Sweep these up & compost them, I usually bag them up in black dustbin liners, punch a few holes & leave for two years, then you will have some wonderful leaf mold. If you have over wintering brassicas give them a top dressing of a high nitrogen feed, such as pelleted chicken manure pellets. Seeds to sow; slow maturing bedding plants such as antirrhinums, broad beans, leeks & onions can be started off under glass. Tomatoes and peppers can be started in heated propagators, ensuring you keep the covers free from condensation as this can drip on seedlings, causing them to rot. Towards the end of the month, I personally, like to make sowings of beetroot, chard, spinach and spring cabbage in module trays, following hardening off can be planted out as the weather improves . This month is probably your last chance to divide up your perennials, not only does it keep your border under control but provides a useful source to swap plants with friends, and of course save some for our plant sale in May. Firstly, water the plant thoroughly, dig up and shake off loose soil, then just pull or cut the plant into convenient pieces and replant. what could be simpler? I am believer in getting something for nothing! February is a good month to start pruning, trees, roses, climber &shrubs that should be cut back in late Winter and early Spring. New buds are usually clearly visible by the end of the month and it is best to finish Winter pruning before the Spring growth gets under way. Not all shrubs need pruning and many ornamentals are pruned after flowering, so check before you go to work with those secateurs. This month we will be taking a look at peas and the humble parsnip; Peas, are a good source of A,B1 And C, folate, iron phosphorous; they are also high in protein, carbohydrate an fibre, but low in fat. When cooking them, the less water you use the less vitamin C is lost. Botanically speaking peapods are fruit, but the peas they contain are vegetables! Peas were first preserved by freezing by Clarence Birdseye in the 1920’s. Parsnips; these are particularly good for improving cardiovascular health. They contain high levels of potassium which helps reduce blood pressure and stress on the heart as well as folate which reduces homocysteine levels in the blood ,thus reducing the risk of heart disease. They are also an excellent low calorie choice and contain dietary fibre, as well as being reasonably high in vitamins B,C, and K, manganese and iron. In earlier times they were used as a sweetening agent, until the arrival of sugar in Europe, in the 16th Century, although it is recorded that sugar came back from the Crusades as early as 1100, and was regarded as a spice. In Tudor times, parsnips were a common ingredient in bread, before it was replaced by the potato. Leave parsnips in the ground until the first frost, then serve them up with the Sunday roast , yummy!