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. The thing is to match what you plant and sow in your vegie patch 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.


january seedlings

February seedlings: brassicas, leeks and flowers

  • Tray sow silverbeet, spring onion, onion, celery
  • Direct 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.
  • Direct sow another row of dwarf beans to take you through autumn.
  • Direct sow 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.
  • Direct sow companion flowers like calendula, chamomile, larkspur, wallflower, cornflower, snapdragons, love in a mist and borage.
  • Direct sow (in the shade) coriander, parsley, saladings, bok choy, kale, rocket. Parsley sown now will supply your kitchen  autumn through spring – kitchen essential!
  • Tray sow a few each of cauli, cabbage and broccoli. A mix is better when it comes to dinner don’t you think?! Its also useful having staggered harvests. Generally speaking – broccoli are ready first, then cabbage then cauli.
  • Direct sow greencrops – phacelia, lupin, buckwheat or mustard to give your soil a rest between crops, and to provide mulch for autumn plantings.

Prepare And Plant

shade for broccoli

  • A simple shadecloth bivvy above new seedlings will keeps them growing onward. Without shade they wilt in the heat and waste precious growing energy recovering from dehydration. Remove the cloth when they’re big and bold enough to handle it.
  • Prepare for May brassica plantings with a lupin greencrop.
  • Plant out broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, silverbeet, parsley, celery.
  • Manage cabbage whites on your new brassica plantings or they’ll get gobbled up.
  • Plant out your last zuchinni (if you haven’t had enough already!)
  • Plant out leeks for spring
  • I’ve heard a rumour that we’ll have an Indian summer so I planted out 3 sweet pepper seedlings in the greenhouse. If it’s consistently hot, I may get a late crop. Fingers crossed!

Check your soil

sniff the soil

The dry really starts to bite about now. It’s important you check in with your soil first before you plant or sow anything new.

The first thing to sort is soil moisture. Perfectly moist soil is the key to abundant soil life, ergo nutrient exchange. Strong soil and mixed mulch hold the moisture like you wouldn’t believe! The idea is that with little and often water you keep it in this state.  Once you let it dry it out the microbes migrate and you have to put in a lot of water and time to heal it.

How to rehydrate + repair dry, wounded soil

Before you rehydrate your soil, you need to open it up and break the crust that’s formed. Do this by pushing your fork in, pulling it back towards you, then sliding it out (aerating, not turning over) all over the bed.

Water it in the cool of the evening with a sprinkler or soaker hose for a goodly length of time. Then cover it over (mulch, cardboard, shadecloth) and leave it until the following evening. Water again. Depending on how dry it is and what your soil base is as to how long this will take. Perhaps 2 or 3 or 4 goes at it.

Once your soil is nicely moist you need to build it back up again and entice the microbes back. Add a fine layer of compost. Up the anti by trenching food scraps/ fish waste up the centre of the bed, spread vermicastings or seaweed on top, or if a heavy feeder comes next dollop well rotten manure about. Pour on some liquid feed or EM to inspire life and cover with a lovely deep mixed mulch. Leave it for a few days to regroup.

A mission aye. Make it your gardening goal to not let your soil get so parched.

Old crops nursery

nursery plants

Those dry brown stalky plants dotted about my garden are part of my cunning plan – well natures really – I’m just a copy cat. They create little nurseries where I can direct sow or plant crops that prefer shade (eg: carrots, broccoli, coriander, rocket). Once the new plants are up and running, the old crop is crunched up and used to mulch them. It’s the natural order of things don’t you think – the old giving life to the new. Round and round we cycle.

Save Seeds

When a crop does well ie no disease, abundant, great flavour, no fuss – its a very smart move to save the seed. 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 no drama for the home gardener.

The cross pollinators, however are a different story – these I buy in. Promiscuous families like 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.

Drying tomato seed

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.

ready to harvest



  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! (:😊

  6. Linda Parker says

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

    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.