February in the Vegie Patch

butterfly on verbena

Summer has been an up and down affair in Horowhenua. To be fair it’s not that unusual in our neck of the woods. For us, summer proper generally starts when school goes back. Last night the over night low was 7 degrees. What! I shouldn’t complain, our cousins over the hill are having a hard time with the heat. Pros and cons to everything my gardening friends.

The thing is to match what you plant and sow in your vegie patch this month, to the season that you are having. If its roasting hot and dry you’d be smart to delay the planting of your carrots and winter brassicas for instance.

Do all you can to support new plantings in this hot, hot weather.

Here are your monthly garden tasks for February:

Direct sow in February

  • Greencrops – phacelia, lupin, buckwheat, red clover or mustard to give your soil a rest between crops, to provide a living mulch for autumn plantings.
  • 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 to save the seed.
  • Dwarf beans. Another row sown now will take you through autumn.
  • Rootcrops – beetroot, kohlrabi, carrot, parsnip or radish. I sow my winter carrots and parsnips later this month. 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 blooming.
  • Shade loving herbs and greens like coriander, parsley, saladings, bok choy, kale, rocket beneath taller crops or flowers. Parsley sown now will supply your kitchen  autumn through spring – kitchen essential!

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, spring onion, onion, celery

What to plant in February

january seedlings


shade for broccoli
  • A simple shadecloth bivvy above new seedlings keeps them growing onward when the sun beats down. Without shade they wilt in the heat and waste precious growing energy recovering from dehydration. Remove the cloth after a few days or when they’re bold enough to handle it.
  • Prepare for May brassica plantings with a lupin greencrop.
  • Manage cabbage whites on your new brassica plantings to prevent them getting gobbled up.

Old crops nursery

nursery plants

Those dry brown stalky plants dotted about my garden are providing seed for another round of crops, building carbon and making little nurseries for new seedlings – the ground beneath is protected from birds, sun and rain. Seeds + seedlings flourish in this environment. No surprises right, its how nature does it after all.

Once the new crop is ready to face the world and stand on its own two feet, simply crunch up the old crop to use as mulch. It’s the natural order of things don’t you agree – the old giving life to the new. Not only saving the gardener time and effort, but our soil and crops do best when we leave things be and follow nature as closely as we can. Pause before you yank old crops out. Do they still have function?

Save Seeds

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, more disesase resistant + better adapted to your garden – 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 to seed save 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) require isolation for the seed to grow true to type. I prefer to grow a mix, so 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 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.


  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!!!



  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.
    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.

    Linda Parker

  7. 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!

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