Tend to your vegetable garden like an expert with these easy to follow tips on what to harvest, plant and sow this February
What you should plant:
+ If planting out savoy, red or green cabbage seedlings, give them plenty of space – at least 30cm between plants. Make sure you’ve added plenty of compost and/or other organic matter before planting as cabbages like nutrient-rich soil. The seedlings are ready for transplanting into the garden when they have 5-6 leaves.
+ Plant late-cropping potatoes into soil that has been fertilised at least 2 weeks before planting. Make sure you thoroughly mix compost, sheep pellets and other organic matter into the soil as too much of this concentrated around the tubers can be a bad thing, causing potato scab and other diseases.
+ Choose a spot shaded from the midday sun when planting leafy greens such as silverbeet and salad vegetables during the hotter months.
What you should harvest:
+ Harvest sweetcorn cobs when tassels turn brown. Don’t leave them in the fridge for a couple of days; it’s best to pick sweetcorn just before cooking for primo tastiness.
+ Now is the time to dig up garlic. If left in the ground too long, cloves will start to split. It’s time to harvest when the leaf tips turn brown.
+ Regular picking is essential with most summer vegetables to encourage plants to keep producing. With courgettes it’s particularly important as they can turn into marrows very quickly. They also taste better when picked small. If you have too many, cook them in fritters or cakes, grate them into salads or freeze.
+ Freezing is the way to go with excess dwarf and runner beans, too.
+ Nectarines, plums and other stone fruit are all ripening now. While harvesting, try to gather up rotten and damaged fruit from the ground and tree as well. This reduces the weight of heavy crops on branches and also helps to prevent disease spreading through the tree. For the same reason don’t compost leaves and fruit that are diseased or infested with pests like guava moth.
+ Net your fruit trees, berry bushes and tomatoes if birds are a problem. Crops will be much tastier if they ripen on the plant but you need to beat the birds to them. A fine net can also discourage guava moth from attacking fruit.
+ When picking chives cut leaves to about 2cm from the ground and pick off flower heads so the plant will keep producing more leaves.
What you should sow:
+ With pumpkin getting pricey in the shops, why not give this easy-to-grow vegetable a go in your garden? There are lots of interesting varieties to try; all you need is space, a sunny position, fertile soil and regular watering. Pinch out main trailing stems when they are about 1m long to encourage more lateral (fruiting) shoots to form.
+ One of the best ways to get young children to eat broccoli is to give them homegrown. As with most veges, the flavour of freshly picked broccoli beats the bought stuff hands down. Late summer is a good time to sow seed (in trays) for broccoli and winter brassicas such as kale, cauliflower and cabbage so plants are nice and strong when planted into the garden in autumn.
+ Nutritious and delicious bok choy is fast becoming as popular as broccoli and it’s very easy to grow. Sow seed in a sunny position directly into the ground or into seed trays. Soil conditions should be similar to that for cabbage, ie plenty of compost and manure dug in well before planting. Do not plant in a bed where you’ve just harvested other brassicas. Sowing or planting in late summer and autumn is normally fine as plants will be maturing when the weather is cooler, but in very hot areas bok choy can flower and run to seed very quickly (as will lettuces and spinach) so you may need to choose a partly shaded spot.
+ Get leeks off to a good start in cooler regions by sowing or planting now, well before the weather turns cold. Seed should be sown about 1cm deep into a seed tray for planting out when they’re about 20cm tall.
+ Keep sowing coriander seed directly into the garden for a continual harvest but choose a partly shaded spot at this time of year. Coriander will start flowering very quickly and stops producing leaves in the summer heat.
+ Sow carrots at least 3 months before frosts are likely in your area. Rather than the standard types, experiment with some of the lesser known but more interesting heirloom varieties.
Words by: Carol Bucknell.