February’s gardening to do list

Here’s what to plant this month and essential chores to do to keep your garden healthy

READ MORE: Make your own compost 

For the plant enthusiast:

Keep watering and deadheading flowers and feeding them with a fortnightly foliar feed, a liquid manure or apply a slow-release fertiliser.

Replace colourful annuals which are past their prime with fast-maturing, heat-tolerant ageratum, alyssum, marigolds, nicotianas, petunias, phlox, salvias, verbenas and zinnias.

In cooler regions, sow seed of winter- and spring-flowering bedding plants in deep seed trays. These include primulas, Iceland poppies, stocks, violas, pansies, foxgloves and larkspur. Keep them cool and moist. In dry inland areas and the subtropics, wait until the temperatures drop.

Tip: When sowing fine primula and Iceland poppy seeds mix them with a little sand before sprinkling over the surface of the soil to distribute them more evenly. Primula seeds germinate even better if chilled in the fridge before sowing.

Trim fuchsias by cutting them back by two nodes and feed them with an organic 3:1:5 fertiliser.

Feed late-summer perennials like golden rod, obedience plant, Rhodesian heath (physostegia), Japanese anemone and winter-flowering hellebores and bergenias.

Prune roses lightly. Continue to feed and water them deeply and regularly. Top up your mulch.

Keep to a regular spray program to prevent fungal outbreaks like mildew, black spot and rust; where these are troublesome avoid wetting the foliage.

READ MORE: A guide to water-wise gardening

For the kitchen gardener:

  • Begin planting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts for winter.
  • Sow a few rows of beetroot and carrot seeds and your last bush beans.
  • Plant out lettuce, Swiss chard and parsley seedlings in a cool place.
  • Remove the flower stalks from rhubarb, artichokes and Swiss chard and harvest garlic.
  • Feed fruit trees like plums and apricots which have finished fruiting with a 6:1:5 or 3:1:5 fertiliser or an organic equivalent.
  • Thin out beetroot seedlings when they are 5–7,5cm high. Add the leaves to your salads. Some gardeners recommend soaking the seeds before sowing in drills (rows) 2,5cm apart. For really succulent beetroot, keep them constantly moist.

For the time-pressed gardener:

Don’t cut your lawns too short as the longer blades protect the roots from the sun reducing evaporation so you don’t need to water as often.

READ MORE: How to best care for indoor plants

READ MORE: 5 good reasons to mulch your garden

For gardening in a drought

Keep the soil mulched and only water when necessary. Get to know your soil; sandy soils need more frequent watering than clay.

Create dams or reservoirs around plants so the soil around the perimeter is lower than in the middle. This way water is absorbed slowly and flows to the roots and not the trunk or stem. Drip irrigation systems are more efficient than overhead systems and can cut down water consumption by 70%. With sprinklers and micro-jet sprays, a lot of water is blown away, especially on windy days.

Replace plants that need a lot of water with low water users. Ideally only 10–15% of all your plants should have high water requirements. Plant these together in a high water zone, preferably near the house or patio. Many plants can adapt to periods of little or no water so group these together.

Don’t transplant shrubs and trees during a drought period as they need extra water to survive the move.

Don’t feed or fertilise plants during dry periods as new growth requires additional water.

More tips on gardening and plants that thrive in drought conditions