There is no denying it. We are no longer hovering on the edge of a new year. We are well into the year and February finds us in late summer. With the kids back at school the weather becomes more settled and in some cruel irony it would be so much better suited to camping than a month ago. But it is better for the garden.
As the summer begins its decent towards the end of the season, the garden seems to amplify its demands. The growth of the plants slows as the energy efforts are transferred into making the pods, ears, fruits and tubers that we so love to eat. This also means we need to garden in a different way and spend more time in the kitchen, processing, preserving, pickling and making pasta sauce. There are so many wonderful ways to use up the harvest left over after you have eaten as much as you can, and yet can’t seem to keep up as there more coming ripe every day. The key to keeping these wonderful flavours for a taste of summer in the middle of winter is good hygiene. So follow recipes with great care.
If you can find time drag yourself away from the kitchen, the garden still really needs you more than ever. Keeping up with the pest and disease watch should be a daily occurrence as populations of unwanted bugs will have grown exponentially and what was once one or two bugs a week ago could easily become thousands if left unchecked. Squishing on sight can be strangely satisfying to the not so squeamish, but the right spray for the right problem is often a far easier solution and fortunately there is a lot to choose from down at the garden centre.
Disease is also a greater risk at this time of year as plants become exhausted from a season of growing and giving out. This makes it even more important to keep up the feeding and watering so the plants don’t have to work as hard to get what they need to stay strong and reach their full potential.
Then if this wasn’t enough to keep your green fingers busy, we also need to look ahead to the new season coming and the cooler weather. To ensure the taste of fresh crisp vegetables all the year round, now is the time to sow seeds. The lingering warmth of the soil is perfect to start the new seedlings that will provide the hearty comfort food we’ll be looking for in months to come.
While they will germinate a lot faster than spring seedlings, they will need a lot more attention. They will be at risk of drying out in heat of the day so keeping the soil evenly moist will be essential. Then there is the essential pest watch. A tiny Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillar, that you didn’t know was there, can completely decimate a tender young brassica seedling in an afternoon. Protecting your seedlings with a fine net can keep them safe from hungry mouths and will have the added benefit of providing a gentle shade from the heat of the day.
Late summer is like the climax of the whole growing season where everything we have worked so hard for has come together for a fabulous harvest. Every aspect of gardening is called for in this wonderful month. We are preparing soil for new crops, sowing seeds, nurturing seedlings, weeding, watering, dealing to pests and disease, harvesting, processing the crop and cooking, pulling down spent crops as they finish and filling compost bins. February’s got it all.