They told us February would be hot and they were right! Gardeners up and down the country are feeling the burn as temperatures soar, plants wilt and the surf beckons.
The mindful gardener will have prepared for heat with generous mulches and reserves of water wherever there are restrictions on hosing. My garden is loving this swelter and growth is accelerating with the rising thermometer. Fruit is ripening faster than I can harvest it.
Though the first few days of February were deemed 'vitality low' by the moon calendar, and the heat of the day has drained what energy the gardener might have had, there has been much to do that involved the picking-basket and a ladder. Nets have successfully protected the plums and apricots in my garden and now I have to get them off the tree before they go soft and drop off of their own accord.
February 5 and 6 are a window through which you can sow root crops, so I will, adding late-season carrots to my collection of swede, turnip, carrot and parsnips already growing.
For the week through to the 11th, the "new moon" period, we'll all feel the increasing level of energy the moon provides, providing the sun doesn't entirely sap our strength during the day.
From the February 12 on through to the 21st, temperatures allowing, activity in the garden will be intense as other crops, particularly vegetables, mature and cry out to be harvested.
Watch for attention from the birds who will be feeling thirsty; providing them with bowls to drink from can keep them away from your juicer crops and help prevent a wing-borne fruit massacre.
Don't prune over this period, unless you enjoy the phenomenon of "die-back" and I've yet to meet anyone who does. Wait for the end of the month when trees such as plums can be "summer-pruned" to restrict their growth and contain their over-enthusiasm for producing branches in response to the pruning saw.
Throughout the prolific "first-quarter" period, sow whatever leaf and flower-producing plants you know will produce before the winter and feed those that are already growing.
Liquid fertilisers are ideal for use at this time of the year, as they are delivered as a drink, rather than a meal, and plants can take them up more easily. Apply liquid feeds in the evening or under the cover of cloud, if you experience any.
Plants absorb the nutrients in liquid fertiliser through their leaves and a plant that has leaves that are firm absorbs better than one that is wilted. Droplets of water and liquid feed that sit on a leaf during the hottest part of the day can act as lenses and burn leaves, so wait for diffused light and spray then. The 20th and 21st days of the month are the very best for feeding liquid mixes, as they are supported by the moon's actions.
The 22nd through to the 26th are bright at night, with a full moon beaming down onto them, and during the day it's best to relax and refrain from sowing seed of any kind as they'll produce spindly seedlings.
The final few days of the month, as mentioned earlier, suit pruning but few other gardening activities. Rest up and read the weather reports for March with your fingers crossed for rain and relief from the heat.
CROP LOSS: Nets will protect the juicy ripening fruit on trees from birds and possums.