End of summer gardening tips

February is the final month of summer and is recognised as a transition month for the Garden. Summer crops and flowers may be coming to an end, but it’s a great time to get things ready for a productive garden in the cooler months.

Generally speaking, plant growth slows dramatically as autumn turns into winter, so if you want results in the heart of winter then you need to start prepping, planning and planting now.

Get your soil in good nick
To prepare for new plantings, don’t neglect the renewal of organic matter in your soil. Summer crops such as tomatoes and capsicums are heavy feeders, so it is important to replenish nutrients

It’s best to use organic material like old manure, lucerne hay or mushroom compost and don’t be afraid to recycle excess crops of things like lettuce back into the soil, if they are not going to be eaten.

February can give us some very hot days, so it is also a good time to ensure that gardens and potted plants are well watered. A good, deep soak a couple of times a week is better than lighter daily watering and don’t forget to mulch to preserve all that hard work. Early morning is the best time to water to avoid the heat of the day.

No doubt weeds will be working hard to disrupt your garden in the warmth, so it is also a good time to engage in some ‘weed removal therapy’ as part of good preparation for autumn/winter plantings.

Winter vegetable favourites
For those in the temperate climates, now is the time to get your winter vegetable plot started. Broccoli, cauliflower and brussell sprouts, cabbage, beetroot, silverbeet, carrots, leeks, fennel and onions are all worthwhile winter crops. A good strategy is to get the seeds for these going in seed trays now, with plenty of protection from direct sun, while you prepare and enrich the garden beds once the summer crops give up their final harvest.

The warmth of February will assist the seeds to germinate, so that they can be planted out toward the end of the month. If you live in the more arid, hotter regions, it may be best to delay this process a few weeks until the soil cools a little more.

Herbs can also be sown at this time of year, so consider versatile varieties such as Parsley, Oregano, Fennel and Chives. Many herbs can be grown year-round in pots or in the garden and the general rule of thumb is good sunlight, good drainage and regular watering, especially if the weather is parched. You need good soil, but go easy on the manure and feeding, to avoid overly rapid growth, which will sacrifice stronger flavour.

Brighten up winter with fresh flowers
If you want plenty of colour for autumn and winter, there are plenty of options to sow now, such as alyssum, calendula, candytuft, carnation, cornflower, cosmos, delphinium, daisy, foxglove, lobelia, nasturtium, nemesia, pansy, poppy, primula, schizanthus, snapdragon, sweet pea, snapdragon, stock and Viola. If you live in hotter regions, then delay planting for a month or so to avoid heat damage.

It is also optimum prep time for your spring flowering bulbs, such as Daffodils, Dutch Irises, Crocus, Hyacinths, Rananculi and Freesias. Your nursery will have the best selection of bulbs in store now, so take advantage. Dig in lots of organic matter, such as compost or manure into your bulb beds, while you store the bulbs in a cool place in preparation for planting out in April or May.

A good time to propagate from cuttings
February is also an ideal time to consider taking cuttings to expand your garden without any cost. Plants like geraniums and impatiens can be grown from cuttings quite simply, but there are plenty of others that are worth trying and will reward your efforts if you apply some TLC.