Article by Wally Richards - GardenNews.co.nz
February is usually the driest and hottest month of the year. It’s the time when a lot of the earlier plantings of vegetables have reached maturity and been harvested. It is also the second to last month to plant out crops for winter harvesting, so make sure the empty spaces are ‘manured’ and replanted with winter vegetables.
Watering is likely to be one of your main jobs during February, especially your container plants.Seeds or seedlings planted out need to have adequate moisture to become established so keep the growing medium moist but don't soak it.
Plants that require a lot of water can be helped by spraying the foliage under and over with Vaporgard which will reduce the plant’s water needs by about 30 to 40% and save you time watering
An application of Vaporgard lasts for about 3 months and will also offer protection from some diseases, pests and early frosts.
During February, if you would like your roses to look really good you should dead head them and then spray the foliage with Vaporgard This will turn the leaves into a darker, richer green and make them shine.
Tomatoes are about $5.00 a kg which is about $4.00 dearer than normal for this time of the year.
Two factors have caused this, one being a late season and the other is the floods in Australia and the great loss to the commercial growers over there as a result. This might be great news for our tomato growers, but a bit sad for those people that don’t have a few plants with ripening fruit in their gardens.
Do you have a problem with birds pecking the ripening tomato fruit? I string Bird Repeller Ribbon around my plants once damage starts to occur and this usually works a treat for a month or so. The other way is to pick any fruit as they start to change colour and ripen them indoors. They will often ripen faster off the plant and without the bird damage. But don't put your ripe tomatoes in the fridge as it affects the flavour with sugar losses.
I am amazed with a tomato that I grow called Silvery Tree Fern (Available in seeds from Niche Seed Stands in garden centres); they are a dwarf growth habit and you do not remove the laterals. The little plant can produce lots of good size fruit 40 to 80mm across. The first they grew well for me producing a good crop of tomatoes and then died back. That, I thought was that. But because I keep feeding my tomato plants till they actually die, I found new shoots coming from the base and another crop to harvest later.
This year I grew one in a 20 litre pot and the same thing has happened again. The Silvery Tree Fern tomato comes from Russia and is a cold setting plant so ideal to start off now for picking tomatoes in winter. Ideally you would grown them in a glasshouse or similar, and in some areas where you have early hard winters, heating would likely be needed also.
The key is to grow the plants now and get them into fruit as winter sets in. The fruit then can ripen slowly for you to pick. If you have one of these plants growing at this time then take a few seeds and put them into some compost and keep moist, they soon will germinate. Otherwise go and buy a packet of seed. With your existing plants keep feeding them and spray as required with some kind of natural bug repellent such as Neem Tree Oil and Key Pyrethrum to control the white fly, caterpillars and psyllids. Whitefly Sticky Traps will help too.
Zucchini or courgettes plants are great growers and prolific producers taking a fair bit of room if you have a smaller garden. I grow mine in 45 litre containers which worked well after applying a good amount of chicken manure for their tucker. You can cut off the older early leaves as you are harvesting the fruit. This will free up room in the garden. If the leaves show any sign of powdery mildew then you should dissolve a tablespoon of baking soda into a litre of water, add 1 mil of Raingard and spray the foliage all over.