Anything can happen in February, weather-wise. It can be -30°C one day and 5°C a few days later. The sun can be very warm and the spring starts diminishing the snow and icing-up the roads.

January is a month of hibernation and rest. But February is a month of cabin fever; hence Rendezvous. February, the month of love, is also the time to start seedlings for the garden.

With all the snow and cold temperatures it sometimes feels like summer will never come. But starting plants and caring for them provides hope that there will be somewhere to transplant these little seedlings when they need it. It also gives the plants themselves a head-start.

I don’t always start seedlings. Some years I have had no place to start them, and some years the turns of life make caring for them unfeasible. Most of what we plant does well enough by just straight seeding into the garden. One year I direct-seeded broccoli on the same day as transplanting broccoli seedlings to see if there would be a difference between the plants. It was the same seed variety from the same seed packet, but there was no difference in the growth or maturity of the plants. So I concluded there really was no point in starting them earlier.

Other vegetables, however, need the extra time to get going.

Onions (from seed), leeks, tomatoes, and peppers are a few that do better when started earlier. In fact they need to be started now, so there is something to harvest at the end of the summer.

Starting plants early also gives them more growing days, which is what some plants need in order to be productive here, where the growing season is so very short.

I had the best success with corn when I started it six weeks before putting it out into the garden. Not only does corn need warmth to germinate, starting early also buys it more time to mature and produce. Beans also benefit by starting as seedlings because they need warmth to germinate too.

Spinach can be started early in order to avoid the long days of our spring, which triggers the spinach plant to produce seed.

Potatoes can be helped by placing the seed potatoes in light for a week before planting. This causes them to start sprouting, so when it’s time to plant, they are already growing.

But it is only February so I need to be content with starting a few of the vegetables we intend to grow this year; the rest will just have to wait.