The last month of summer is already here! Time goes so quickly, especially when you plan around the seasons. There is always something to do or prepare for.
What to sow this month: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, carrots, beetroot, leeks, spring onions, lettuce, fennel, swedes, turnips, parsnips
What to plant from seedlings: Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, basil, coriander, leeks, fennel
February has to be one of the most rewarding months for the NZ vegetable garden. Your summer crops will be ripening quickly in the heat and you may find yourself overloaded with produce. Finding ways to preserve your excess fruits and vegetables is one of my favourite things to do and it means you can enjoy your homegrown bounty all year round. I have been canning, dehyrdating and fermenting and it’s been so fun! I’m working on a few favourite recipes to share in the future.
In the Garden
Just because Autumn is around the corner, doesn’t mean the heat is stopping. February is one of the hottest months in NZ, and judging from how this summer has been so far, this February won’t be an exception.Therefore, keeping your garden hydrated is still at the top of the list.*
*Do remember though: a deep longer watering is better than many quick ones. This will ensure the water has time to actually reach the plant roots.
Keep on top of liquid feeding! I make all my own liquid fertilisers (see my post here), and in summer I need to replenish my supply regularly as I am using it so often. Liquid feeding your plants every one to two weeks in summer is great to give them that extra boost they need to keep producing.
Some of your leafy greens and herbs that are not so heat tolerant may start bolting and going to seed. Try your hand at seed saving so you can resow these next season. Leave the seeds on the plant to dry out completely before cutting them down and placing them in a brown paper bag. Keep your seeds in a cool, dry, dark place until you are ready to use them.
If you are wanting to seed save from plants such as zucchini or cucumber, wait until the plant is nearing the end of its life before letting one vegetable grow to full size. This is because, if the plant is putting its energy into growing a zucchini to full size, it’ll put less energy into producing more flowers and produce for you.
Once you have harvested a decent amount, let a few of the healthiest vegetables on the plant grow to full size. Zucchinis will grow huge and their skin will harden when they are mature. Cucumbers will turn yellow. Once mature, you can scoop the seeds out from the middle and wash them well to remove the pulp. The same goes for pumpkin seed saving. Once collected, let the seeds dry out completely on a tray before storing in a dry, cool and dark place.
Beans seeds can be collected by letting the pods dry completely on the vine until they rattle when you shake them.
Prepping autumn garden beds
My own garden is still very full of summer crop so I don’t have a lot of room to start preparing yet but I do make the most of each little space that comes up and I have prepared a few small sections for some of my autumn crops.
Your soil will have been very busy and depleted over summer so you want to add nutrients back in. Spread a layer of rich organic matters such as leaf mould, worm castings, aged manure or seaweed over your soil. I use a deep mulching method in my garden so I don’t work any of this stuff ‘in’ to the soil. I place it on top and then plant right into it. This layer also works as a barrier for weeds.
Start off your brassica and leek seedlings now if you haven’t already done so. If you are planting out any brassica seedlings already, be aware the white butterfly is still out so it pays to cover them with a net.
Your strawberries will be producing many runners around this time. Once these runners have rooted you can snip them off the parent plant and replant them as their own individual plant. A strawberry plant does its best producing in the first three years, so it’s a good idea to replace the older plants with some of these new plants.
At this time of year, I have a whole heap of compost piles. It’s so easy to just throw any green waste in a pile. Any leaves I chop back, or plants I pull out all get dumped (semi-nicely) in a pile. I mix it in with some carbon (dead leaves, straw, hay) and let it do its thing. Because they are dotted all around my garden, once it has broken down I can use it straight in the garden without having to cart it around too far.
If your plants were hit by any diseases such as blight or curley leaf , or were plagued by pysllids, do not compost these leaves to avoid spreading these problems to next season. Instead, burn or bin these infected leaves.
Want to see my personal February garden to do? Watch the video below.