February is one of the busiest times of year in the garden so we’ve created a bonus guide for what to harvest, plant and sow
What to harvest in the garden in February
- Use the inner leaves and white stalks of lemongrass in Southeast Asian cooking and save some for rubbing onto your skin to keep mosquitoes away, or to make soothing, relaxing teas. Some gardeners say that if you plant lemongrass in your vege garden, it will also help repel bugs.
- To make sure your plums, apricots, nectarines and other stone fruit are nice and plump for harvesting, thin out heavily laden branches before fruit starts to ripen. Keep a sharp eye out for rotten or damaged fruit and remove to stop diseases spreading to the rest of your crop.
- If you’ve planted vine tomatoes, it’s best to trim the top shoot once plants have developed 4-5 flowering trusses. This reduces the nutrition load on the plant so it can put its energy into the remaining fruit and is less susceptible to diseases. Pinching out laterals (diagonal shoots that grow in the angle between branches) also means more nutrients for tomatoes, not unnecessary foliage.
- Many gardeners will be picking their own juicy tomatoes now – so much tastier than those in the shops. The longer you leave them on the plant the better the flavour, but you many need to net crops so the birds and bugs can’t chomp on them.
- Keep harvesting potatoes as the leaves turn yellow. Avoid using spades as you can damage the spuds. Hand harvesting is best, although soil can be gently loosened with a fork first. Do the same with beetroot.
- Like tomatoes, freshly picked beans have a taste like no other, especially when young and tender. Picking them at this stage will also encourage more to grow. After harvesting dwarf and runner beans, cut the tops off plants but leave the roots in soil.
- Harvest capsicum while fruit is still firm when squeezed – too late and they’ll turn soft. You can pick when green or wait until they change colour.
What to sow in the garden in February
- Only sow radishes in cooler parts of the garden to avoid plants flowering rather than forming roots, or roots becoming woody and inedible.
- Likewise with peas, they don’t like it too hot and do best when temperatures are cooler. Protect young seedlings from hungry birds with nets or small sticks.
- If sowing lettuces, go for Cos types as they are more heat tolerant. At this time of year a cool spot is best with free-draining soil. Add plenty of compost and organic nitrogen-rich fertiliser beforehand to ensure good fast growth. The faster the growth, the tastier your lettuces.
- Basil seed can still be sown in warmer gardens or in pots. Plant near tomatoes to repel whitefly and other pests.
- Parsley can also be sown direct into the garden or into large containers. It will grow in sun or semi-shade and likes fertile soil that doesn’t dry out.
- Sow Asian vegetables such as bok choy now for an autumn harvest. Feed and water regularly for better taste and size.
- Silverbeet seed can be sown now for an autumn crop in cooler areas, either in punnets or directly into the garden.
What to plant in the garden in February
- Wait until seedlings of cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas have five or six leaves. Soil needs to be fertile for a good crop so dig in compost and other organic matter beforehand and feed regularly. Protect with nets to stop birds having a go at young seedlings.
- If you live in a colder part of the country, don’t leave it too much longer to plant late-season potatoes, unless you have a greenhouse or very sheltered garden.
- Try planting rosemary, sage, thyme and mint around your vege patch to deter white cabbage butterflies. Nasturtiums and garlic are also said to keep aphids away.
- It’s not too late to plant well-established seedlings of heat-loving crops like eggplant, cucumber and capsicum if you live in warmer areas or have a greenhouse. Both need a long-growing season, good fertile soil and regular feeding.
- With strawberry runners (long stems from an established plant with baby plants at the end), pinning down the plantlets with wire while still attached will encourage them to grow roots.
Give the bees a clear guide to your vege patch and brighten it up at the same time by planting plenty of bee-attracting flowers such as calendula, alyssum, marigold and borage.
Words by: Carol Bucknell; Photography by: Annette O’Brien.