February in the Vegie Patch

Harvesting cocozelle zuchinni

Even though the summer harvest is in full swing, its time to turn our attention to planting Autumn and Winter crops. Make the most of the warm nights and fast growth to get slow growing winter crops like carrots, parsnips, leeks and cauliflowers underway, ensuring there’s plenty of kai right through till spring.

Match what you plant and sow this month, to the season that you are having. If its likely to be roasting hot and dry for a good few months yet, you may want to delay the planting of your carrots and winter brassicas. And if its already cooling off, you’ll want to get your skates on!

What to sow and plant in February

DIRECT SOW

  • Greencrops – phacelia, lupin, buckwheat, red clover or mustard in any gaps. Give your soil a rest and/or create a living mulch to plant into in autumn.
  • Lupin to pave the way for May brassica plantings.
  • Kohlrabi, carrot, parsnip or radish. Such good carrots these ones, sown in the heat and harvested in the cold.
  • Companion flowers like calendula, chamomile, larkspur, wallflower, cornflower, snapdragons, love in a mist and borage to keep your garden and greenhouse blooming.
  • Coriander, salad greens and rocket beneath taller crops or flowers to keep them shaded and prevent bolting.

TRAY SOW

pricked on seedlings
  • Start autumn brassicas off now in a little, gentle fashion. A few each of cauli, cabbage and broccoli makes a useful mixed and staggered harvest. Generally speaking – broccoli are ready first, then cabbage then cauli.
  • Tray sow silverbeet, perpetual beet, chard, parsley, spring onion, red onion or celery.
  • Wallflower, dahlia, chamomile, dianthus, larkspur, echinops, hollyhock, anise hyssop – flowers for winter and spring!

DIRECT OR TRAY SOW

  • Basil. Little and often sowings of basil are super useful. Basil is at its best when fresh and young – such a beautiful summer herb. Let the old plants flower for the bees and save the seed.
  • Dwarf beans into warm soil. Another row sown now will take you through autumn.
  • Beetroot and saladings can be either tray sown in shallow plug trays or direct sown along the picking edge.
  • Bok choy or Kale.

TRANSPLANT

Broccoli seedlings

Before planting, check in first with your soil. Choose the best soil for heavy feeders like brassicas. Where soil is poor, sow a greencrop, build a compost heap or add compost before planting.

  • Autumn brassicas and winter greens can start going in – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, silverbeet, perpetual beet, chard, parsley and celery.
  • Leeks for spring
  • Spring onions
  • Saladings in the semi shade
  • Zuchinni and cucumber in the greenhouse
  • Companion flowers

Easy self seeders

Lettuce going to seed
Lettuce seeds about to be dispersed all over the garden for free seedlings

Let herbs, flowers and leafy greens spire off to seed and fling their seed about for another generation of seedlings. As your garden establishes and as you let more crops go full cycle, you’ll start to provide many of your own seedlings without lifting a finger. Parsley, chard, perpetual spinach, endive, chicory, coriander, rocket, kale, flowers and saladings are all a perfect fit for this self perpetuating cycle.

Feel free to move self seeded seedlings that land in a path or a bed you have ear marked for something else, to where ever you want them. Rather than individually thinning them out I transplant them in little clumps.

Old crops nursery

nursery plants

As well as providing another round of seedlings, leaving plants to go to seed also makes a beautifully protected habitat for new seedlings. The space beneath older crops is protected from birds, harsh sun and wind – and seeds + seedlings flourish here. No surprises right, its how nature does it after all.

As the new seedlings grow, progressively crunch up the sheltering crop and lay it down around them as mulch.

Simple seed saving

Drying tomato seed

When a crop does well ie no disease, abundant, great flavour, no fuss – its a very smart move to save the seed. Your own saved seed grows in strength every year, becomes more disesase resistant + better adapted to your garden – its worth its weight in gold. Having your own little seed bank is solid and it avoids disappointment when the seed company stops stocking your favourite.

I generally save my own peas, beans, salads, flowers and tomatoes. Self fertile plants like these are easy for the home gardener.

All the rest are promiscuous cross pollinators, requiring expertise I dont have or cant be bothered with. Cucurbits (cucumber, zuchinni, pumpkin, squash) for example, require isolation for the seed to grow true to type and as I prefer to grow a mixture, I leave these to the experts. Genetic strength is the other key factor here – for example corn needs a minimum of 100 plants (inbreeding never ends well) and that’s a bit tricky my end.

Summer Carrots

Carrots don’t sit around in the heat, so as soon as they have sized up – get them up, washed and stored away. For best storage do this in the cool of the morning. Don’t feel sad if they are a bit pale and not so sweet – summer carrots aren’t always the greatest.

Avoid bitter green shoulders by keeping carrots below ground – its the sun that turns them green. Keep them covered right up to the base of the foliage with dense mulch or scrape the soil up around them.

Comments

  1. Viola Palmer says

    I think you should do a book on each subject. One this year and the other next.

  2. Jenny Gordon says

    I like the idea of a diary.

  3. Find it very hard to choose the topic for your new book – both relevant to most home gardeners.

    So………I agree with Viola.

    May I suggest that in a quiet moment you ask yourself which topic would be best to write first and listen to your gut reaction, or however you gain insight when you JUST KNOW it is right. It may take several attempts, and you may even get the answer when you least expect it.

    Your emails are a delight to read, and no doubt, your books will be full of No nonsense, easy to understand information and humorous anecdotes!!!

    WISHING YOU EVERY SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW VENTURE AS NEW ZEALAND’S TOP GARDENING AUTHOR.

    Monique

  4. A diary would be fabulous – so many of the weekly newsletters I see are really designed for Auckland, and life is a little different down at the bottom of the north island.

  5. Carina Chambers says

    Definitely the Diary, so much useful information with a good space for us to make notes.
    OR
    Do both! Cause you have so much time! (:😊

    • Hi , I came on your garden tour on Wednesday with my partner, we both enjoyed it hugely and were impressed with your down to earth approach. I picked up many tips to try out, and loved seeing your garden. Tis always good to connect, however briefly, with like minded folk. Thank You!

  6. Linda Parker says

    Yes, I would lean towards a diary and especially designed for our neck of the woods.

    Regards
    Linda Parker

  7. Liz Francis says

    I agree with Rose and Linda, a month by month diary full of your gardening wisdom.(and chat) would be great. Knowing you are “just up the road” means we locals can relate to your observations about the impact of weather, etc. So much better than having to work out if we live in zone 1 or 5 or whatever!!

    • Thanks for your thoughts Liz! Though to make a book worth while I have to reach a much bigger audience than just my lovely locals. Pretty interesting stuff to work out aye.

  8. Lesley Cavanagh says

    The diary first, but yes, like they say p-l-e-a-s-e do both..

  9. Very difficult choice, but on balance, the diary first

  10. Sophie Campbell says

    Its a hard one Kath, i want both but i love your workshops so all that info in one book would be really valuable but then a diary would be good too so we know what it is we’re meant to be doing!!
    It has to be both – start with the diary followed by the workshop book – and i see your next workshop is sold out!! i’ll have to get in for the next one – Sophie

  11. I noticed in your photo’s that you use row covers. I am about to buy some, but there are quite a few different fabrics/plastics you can buy. Do you happen to have experience with Biomesh or Insulnet from Redpath?

    • Insect mesh is such a good investment. I use wondermesh available through lincoln university. Its worth it to invest in good quality that wont rip and will roll out season after season. Sorry to say I haven’t used those other meshes, although I have indeed used other Redpath products – they are a a solid company.

  12. Hi Kath,
    They link in the first paragraph (“Do all you can to support new plantings”) keeps looping me back to this page (February in the veggie patch). Could you please check that it’s linked correctly? I’m interested to read what I can do to support new plantings!!! Ha ha
    P.s. thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom. This is such an amazing blog and a valuable resource!

  13. Hi Kath, should I prune my pumpkin plants? I haven’t grown them previously and am a bit overwhelmed at how far they’re sprawling! I’d be quite keen to trim them back as long as it isn’t going to compromise the development of the pumpkins. Thanks for your help. Julie

    • so vigorous aye! They must be happy at your place Julie. Depends on what type you got growing there but to keep it simple lets say to prune the vines back to developed fruits. Remove any fruits that are deformed or have rots. Perhaps next year grow them up something!

  14. Hi Kath,
    My boysenberry plan has been overrun with passionvine hopper. How is best to get rid of it? Will neem work?
    Thanks, Holly

    • Oh yes – tis the season! Neem will work though adult passionvine hoppers are hardy as. Spray for complete coverage of the berry and repeat spray as often as you can manage… as close to 3 days apart. Next year get in earlier with the Neem to catch the juveniles who are more susceptible. Also smart to break the cycle at this point pre egg laying. Good luck!

  15. Robina Broughton says

    I look forward to every 1st of the month and getting your email. Have you got or are you thinking about creating an orchard tree calendar of what to do and when (for pip, stone and berry fruits)? A month by month for disorganised people like me. Possibly an A3 that can be tacked on a wall. I reckon it would be a best seller!

    • Thanks Robina! I enjoy putting the newsletter together, so glad you enjoy it too. The calendar sounds like a fab idea, I’ll put that project in the queue 🙂