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Gardening in February

Summer’s not quite done yet …

By February, life has returned to normal after the holiday break. School is in and most of us have settled back into our usual routines. The garden is still full of colour, with brilliant flowers like these sunflowers highlighting that we are not quite done with summer just yet. The sun is rising a little later and setting  earlier but there’s still some heat in it and there will be days when temperatures peak in the high 30s or 40s.

A field of sunflowers

 

Watering, mulching and feeding still take centre stage but there’s also the prospect of adding new shrubs, trees and edibles to the garden over coming weeks. The best way to keep up with what you can plant in coming weeks is to visit your local garden centre and check out what’s in stock and looking good.

What to plant now:

In some places the soil will be too hot for planting but in cool to temperate climates the intensity of summer is starting to fade. Some ideas for you:

  • Evergreen trees and shrubs: 

Later in the month, Australian native plants, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreen magnolias, pieris and other evergreen shrubs and trees may be planted. Water in well.

  • Seasonal flowers:

Seeds of pansies, violas, bellis, calendulas, cinerarias, cornflowers, honesty, hollyhocks, Iceland poppies, nemesias, polyanthus and primulas may be sown into seed trays now, for planting in early to mid-Autumn. In warmer climates, seedlings of marigolds, impatiens and be planted in warmer areas.  

  • Perennials: 

Hostas, hellebores, dianthus, pin cushion (scabiosa), gaura can go in now. Spring and summer flowering perennials can be lifted, divided and replanted in late February.

  • Woody and perennial herbs:

“Hard” herbs - rosemary, sage, thyme, bay laurel, oregano, mint* – may be planted now in most areas. “Soft” herbs – parsley, basil, coriander, chives, tarragon – may be grown from seeds or seedlings now.

*Mint should be grown in a pot to stop it becoming invasive.

The soft herb parsley growing in a black plastic pot

 

  • Salad greens: 

A late planting of summer’s leafy salad favourites including the “pick and come again” lettuces should go in by mid-month; water in well.

The Vegetable Patch:

Harvest now:

The veggie garden will be at its most prolific now, with all the summer crops ripening or ready to harvest. Tomatoes, climbing and bush beans, peas including sugar snap varieties, zucchinis, cucumbers, radishes, Asian greens, lettuce, sweet corn and other crops will all taste great when picked and eaten on the same day. 

Corn crop

 

As crops finish, pull out plants and put them into the compost bin if they are disease-free. Dig over empty rows to break up the soil and incorporate the mulch, and add a dressing of garden lime (one handful per square metre) and a dressing of organic manure in preparation for autumn planting.

What to plant now:

Seedlings of salad and Asian greens may still be planted now into well prepared, moist soil. Water in with a half strength solution of liquid fertiliser. It is a little too early to sow seeds or plant seedlings of winter crops but check your local garden centre to see what other veggies are on offer.

Plant seedlings of the following:   
  • Asian greens
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Silver beet
  • Spring/Green onion
Veggie patch tips for February:
  • Keep vegetables and herbs producing well with a liquid plant food like Osmocote Boost+Feed Vegetables, Tomatoes & Herbs or a certified organic fertiliser. 
  • Check the ties on bush tomatoes and other veggies to ensure they are not too tight.
  • Hand pull or hoe out weeds that compete for nutrients and moisture and may also harbour pests that could attack your crops. 
  • Continue watering crops early in the day direct on to the soil – avoid wetting leaves because this could encourage diseases.
  • Bird netting over the entire veggie patch will keep birds and possums out, ensuring everything that’s ripe is for you, not the wildlife. Make sure the mesh size is less than 5mm to prevent birds or animals catching their claws in it.

Fruit & Flower Beds:

Fruits to harvest now:

The stone fruit and berry seasons continue, with more varieties ripening their crops this month. Pick fruit early in the day, while it’s still cool, leaving that still firm to the touch on the trees until fully ripe. Pick and discard any diseased or damaged fruits immediately to reduce the potential spread of diseases. 

Basket full of fruit

 

Some of the very early cropping varieties of apples and pears may be ripe enough to pick from mid-February onwards. Passionfruit will also mature and falling to the ground now, and there may also be good crops of lemons and oranges in some areas. Tropical fruits and citrus are still cropping in warmer areas, and honeydew melon, watermelon and cantaloupe are still in season in hot, dry climates.

What fruit to plant:

Citrus trees, passionfruit vines and other evergreen fruiting trees and shrubs may be planted from the middle of the month. Water in well and keep moist (but not wet) until they are well established.

What flowers to plant:
Sow seeds of the following into seed trays mid-month, for planting in Autumn:
  • Arctotis
  • Alyssum
  • Antirrhinum (snapdragon)
  • Aquilegia (granny’s bonnet)
  • Calendula
  • Canterbury bells (campanula)
  • Carnation
  • Cineraria
  • Delphinium
  • Gaillardia
  • Geum
  • Gypsophila
  • Iceland poppy
  • Larkspur
  • Nemesia
  • Nigella
  • Pansy
  • Polyanthus
  • Primula
  • Scabiosa
  • Sweet William
  • Verbena
  • Viola

Light red and yellow flower in a field
 
Garden jobs for the month:
  • Pick up and dispose of any fruit on the ground under fruit trees – they may be diseased or harbouring insect pests. Discard in the household rubbish – DO NOT put them in the compost bin!
  • Cut out and dispose of galls (stem or branch swellings) on citrus trees to help eradicate gall wasps.
  • Tidy up the garden by removing spent flowers and flower spikes from perennials and annuals.
  • Dahlias and chrysanthemums may need staking and/or the ties checking to ensure they are not cutting into stems.
  • Fortnightly applications of Osmocote Boost+Feed All Plant Types will keep your garden healthy and growing well.
  • Continue regularly trimming evergreen trees and shrubs to keep them neat, particularly hedges, buxus balls and mop-tops.
  • When high temperatures or strong winds are expected, take down hanging baskets and move them together with outdoor pots to a shady, sheltered spot where they won’t get burned to a crisp.

Person trimming back a hedge

 

Indoor Plants:

  • Water indoor plants when the top 5cm or soil of potting mix feels dry to the touch. Allow excess water to drain freely from the base of the pot. Don’t leave pots standing in saucers of water.
  • Keep the air around indoor plants humid by regularly misting plants with a water atomiser.
  • Feed fortnightly with ready to use Osmocote Pour+Feed Indoor Plants – no mixing required. There are also Pour+Feed products for orchids and cacti.
  • If indoor plants need reporting, use Osmocote Professional Indoor Plants Potting Mix, made from coir fibre not composted materials that may provide shelter for fungus gnats.

Lawns:

Sprinkler watering the lawn

 

  • Make sure the lawn is well watered at least once a week, if local water authorities permit or there’s no rain. The earlier in the day you water, the less risk there is of the sun burning the grass through moisture droplets. 
  • Watch for bindii spreading through lawns and get on top of any incursions quickly with Lawn Builder Bindii, Clover & Broadleaf, a ready-to-use, hose-on lawn weeder that’s safe to use on all grasses.

Pest Control:

  • Watch for thrips and aphids on flowering plants. Defender Pyrethrum Insect Spray will control them. Don’t forget to spray the undersides of leaves as well as the top surface.
  • If you don’t want to use chemicals, hang yellow sticky traps among plants to attract and catch pests.

Thrips and aphids on flowering plants

 

  • Watch for powdery mildew on roses and other plants including pumpkins and zucchinis, especially when nights are warm and humid. Use a copper-based fungicide to control them.
  • Newly planted seedlings may be targeted by snails and slugs. Protect them with Defender Snail & Slug Pellets.
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