February in the Garden
Take soft cuttings, sow a first crop of winter vegetables, as well as winter and spring-flowering annuals in trays.
Visit nurseries regularly to see what is flowering and looking good, and plant these plants to always have colour in your garden. All shrubs and perennials planted now will have ample time to settle in before the colder months arrive.
Remove annuals if they are looking a bit sad, and deadhead others to give you a second flush of colour. Annuals that can be planted for late summer and autumn colour include petunias, begonias, alyssum and lobelias.
Hot tip: Although petunias are a firm favourite, they should not be planted twice in the same spot, to prevent soil-borne disease. Also be adventurous and look for something different to plant like Petunia Crazytunia ‘Twilight Lime’, a very floriferous, mounded, semi-trailing perennial petunia with large flowers in unusual and interesting colours.
You can start sowing those winter- and spring-flowering jewels, which need a bit of time to grow up in seedling trays – cinerarias, gazanias, Iceland poppies, primulas, violas, pansies, larkspurs, Canterbury bells, columbines, sweet Williams and aquilegias.
Prune deciduous climbers like wisterias, Boston ivy and ornamental vines that need thinning out. Also trim hedges and topiaries to keep their shape.
Raise the height of your mower blades to about 5cm in mid-summer. Longer grass helps to shade the soil and keep the roots cool.
Water early in the mornings so that your lawn can benefit from all the water, and you don’t lose any to evaporation or wind.
Water deeply (about 15 minutes per sprinkler setting) twice a week rather than watering for shorter periods more frequently. Deep watering encourages the development of deep, healthy roots.
Make sure that your hosepipe as well as its fittings and nozzles are all in good shape, so that you don’t lose water through leakages.
Sow cauliflower, celery, cabbage, oriental vegetables, sweet basil, coriander, nasturtium and flat-leaf parsley. Plant bush beans, onions, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beetroot and Swiss chard.
Replace your tired bedding plants with heat-tolerant varieties such as marigolds, vincas, and portulacas. Your flowerbeds will look fresh again!
Also plant perennials like verbena hybrids, daylilies and the beautiful Plumbago auriculata in the background of shrub beds.
Divide and replant easy-to-grow groundcovers and perennials like wild irises, red-hot pokers, hen and chickens, daylilies, alstroemerias, asters and watsonias.
Time to plant lachenalia, veltheimia and belladonna bulbs.
Hot tip: Protect delicate plants from the prevalent summer and winter winds by planting a barrier of wind-resistant plants around the perimeter of your garden. Once established, these plants will help to keep your garden sheltered, while adding to your privacy as well.
Here’s a rough guide to identifying wind-resistant plants:
Soft structure: Look for tall grasses and reed-like plants. Their soft structure means that they filter the wind easily, without getting damaged. Try Cape thatching reed (Elegia tectorum) or common thatching reed (Thamnochortus insignis).
Thick, glossy leaves: Plants with leaves like this are generally tough and fairly wind-resistant. Try coastal silver oak (Brachylaena discolor), bush tick berry (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), water berry (Syzygium), wild olive, milk wood or dune crow-berry (Searsia crenata).
Grey, hairy plants: These plants cope well in dry, windy weather. Try lavender, lamb’s ear and woolly thyme.
Sow the following veggies this month: Cabbage, carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach and beetroot. Plant leafy herbs like chives, rocket, watercress, basil, dill and parsley.
With February being the hottest month of the year, remember to keep your garden mulched. Mulch can be anything from bark chips, macadamia shells, compost to pebbles. The advantage of mulch is that it keeps the soil
and plants’ roots cool, thereby decreasing evaporation.
Start sowing sweet peas now. Try bush varieties in pots or hanging baskets, or the climbing variety on a swimming pool fence or trellis. When sowing, apply generous amounts of kraal manure to the planting area.
What to spray – check for red spider on roses, normally found on the underside of the leaf. Pick off all leaves that are badly infected and spray the plant with a recommended insecticide. Woolly aphid on your citrus is also very common this time of year.
Cut back and divide overgrown arums. Cut them back to about 10cm and apply loads of kraal manure or compost to the planting area when replanting.
For long-lasting colour, plant mandevillias (dipladenias) in pots.
Feed and compost all shrubs and climbers, like spiraea, banksia roses and jasmines with 3:1:5 SR fertiliser or an organic equivalent. They will start flowering in late winter.
Neaten hail-damaged plants lightly and spray pro-actively with a fungicide.
Feed and water helleborus, camellias and azaleas to prevent bud drop. Mulch with pine needles.
Cut back petunias to encourage a late-autumn flush and remove green growth on variegated plants like coprosmas.
Feed roses at the end of the month with specialised rose fertiliser to get them ready for beautiful autumn blooms.
It’s prime time for bougainvilleas, hemerocallis (daylilies), and variegated and green foliage plants.
Take cuttings of fuchsias, pelargoniums, heliotropes, hydrangeas, felicias, diascia, osteospermums, lavenders, rosemary, carnations, daisy bushes, begonias and verbenas – dip the bottom ends in rooting hormone and
plant them in a mix of compost and coarse river sand. Place the cuttings in a shaded spot and keep the soil moist.
In the veggie garden, do more plantings of tomatoes, chillies, basil, lettuce, celery, parsley, brinjals, chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage, coriander.
Hot tip: Plant your first crop of seed potatoes for an early winter harvest.
Sow sweet peas at the end of the month in well-dug trenches prepared with manure, compost and bonemeal.
Hot tip: Soak the sweet pea seeds in water overnight before sowing for better germination.
Prune summer-flowering plants like pelargoniums, lavender, abelia, weigela, hydrangeas, heliotrope and salvia. Divide and replant overgrown agapanthus, watsonias and chasmanthes.
Feed dahlias with bulb food and remove any faded flowers. Mulch roses and feed with 8:1:5. Keep them well watered.
Feed deciduous fruit trees like apple, apricot, cherry, nectarine, peach, pear, plum and quince with a general fertiliser and water well.
Start preparing strawberry beds by digging in well-rotted kraal manure or compost and a few handfuls of general fertiliser. You can plant out fresh plants or runners from old plants until April.
Sow in trays or seedbeds: Cauliflower, cabbage, celery, oriental veggies, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, onions, leeks. Do succession sowings of bush beans, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach (Swiss chard), turnips, sweet basil, flat-leaf parsley, rocket.
Feed your palms with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser and anthuriums with a slow-release fertiliser.
As it is still hot, wait before planting winter annuals that require cooler conditions.
In the veggie garden, water tomatoes consistently to prevent flowers from getting dark patches on their bottom ends. Many other vegetables will bolt if they dry out. Harvest excess veggies and start freezing and bottling. Harvest and freeze fresh, chopped herbs in a little water in ice-cube trays. Raise marrows off the ground to prevent rotting.
Pest and weed watch:
Mildew on dahlias, zinnias, salvias – treat with a fungicide.
Citrus psyllid causing blisters on the upper surface of citrus trees, white ironwoods and coral trees – treat with a suitable insecticide.