Consider this your summer planting guide! Gardens editor Carol Bucknell shares her tips for harvesting, planting and sowing in the month of February
What to harvest in the garden in February
- Keep picking tomatoes and pinching out laterals (diagonal shoots that grow in the angle between branches), so the energy goes into fruit, not leaves. To beat the birds pick some of the tomatoes as they ripen, which will reduce the weight load on the branches and ensure plants can produce sufficient nutrients for the remainder of the crop.
- Harvest cucumbers regularly as old fruit can have a bitter taste. Cucumbers can be grown in large containers and trained up trellis, stakes or wires. Tie branches regularly and trim side shoots back to two leaves to keep plants bushy. Pinch out tops when plants reach top of support.
- In summer herbs are at their best, with flavours intense and perfume divine. Pick coriander, mint, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme often (this encourages more growth) and use in salads.
- Dig up potatoes only when you’re ready to eat them, as they keep better in the ground than in a cupboard.
- Pick dwarf (also known as French beans) and runner beans when young and tender; this encourages more fruit. After harvesting dwarf and runner beans cut the tops off plants but leave roots in soil to release nitrogen.
- Keep harvesting plums, peaches, nectarines and other stone fruit. If you live in a wet area and your peaches keep getting leaf curl or brown rot, try ‘Blackboy’ or ‘April White’ varieties.
- Pick berries before the birds get the fruit. This will also encourage more berries.
What to plant in the garden in February
- Aubergines need warm weather to produce fruit and a long growing season. In many areas it will be too late but if you live in a warmer region you can still give it a try, as long as you plant well established (8-10 week old) seedlings in well-drained, fertile soil. Feed and water regularly, especially when fruit is set.
- Capsicums have similar requirements to aubergines, particularly warmth, good fertile soil and regular feeding. They are also slow growing so at this time of year if you live in colder areas, young seedlings that are just starting to produce flower buds are your best bet.
- Don’t let the weeds take root in the bare spaces left after harvesting vegetables. Plant salad or winter greens, fast growing radishes or companion/bee attractant flowering plants such as calendula and marigolds in those gaps.
What to sow in the garden in February
- Keep sowing or planting new courgette plants while the weather is warm. These easy-to-grow, very productive plants are a must-have summer vegetable as they can be used in so many ways: delicious on the barbie, grated into salads and fritters, sliced onto pizzas or grated as part of the crust, and even in cakes and muffins.
- Summer wouldn’t be the same without corn and for those in the hotter parts of the country it’s not too late to get seeds in the ground. If you’re worried the weather will soon get cool in your area choose a variety that has a short growing season, or buy established seedlings. Feed plants regularly with a general garden fertiliser that is high in potassium. Plants need to be watered regularly.
- February is a good time to start sowing winter greens such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and silverbeet so plants will be well established when the cold weather arrives. Don’t leave seed trays in a hot, sunny position or the poor things will fry.
Words by: Carol Bucknell