From growing your own micro-green sprouts to rustling up a homemade pear and chocolate crumble in your kitchen, check out the latest Get Growing tips for February. For more late summer gardening advice, check out Trudi at www.tuitime.co.nz

1. Grow your own nutritious sprouts. It only takes about 3 days to go from seed to sprout and nothing could be easier. All you need is a jar with a mesh lid (available from garden centres or use cheesecloth and a rubber band), and some untreated seed for sprouting. Simple! To start your sprouts off, pour a tablespoon or so of seed into a jar and cover with water. Set aside to soak for about 4 hours (or overnight for large seeds like snow peas and chickpeas). Drain the water off, (don’t be alarmed if the water is a bit brown) rinse seeds with more cold water and drain again. Leave the jar in a warm place to start the germination process. Rinse and drain daily (or twice in hot weather) and in 2-4 days they will be big enough to eat. Remove sprouts from the jar and place in an airtight container to store in the fridge. They will keep for 2-3 days so eat ’em quick! Fling some more seed back into the jar and start the process again. Kings Seeds have a fantastic range of sprouting seed available for purchase. There is even a starter kit available, which includes three mesh lids plus six packets of seed to try. Tip: Buy glass jars after the lids arrive so you can make sure they fit.

2. Sow lettuce. In the peak of summer, lettuce gets hot and stressed like the rest of us. But as it starts to cool off again, sow a row of lettuce every couple of weeks. Natural rain does them the world of good too. I put in half a dozen ‘Iceberg’ lettuces at the beginning of the month and they’ve doubled in size thanks to two nights of rain. Watch out for aphids though. If they get into the middle of these hearting lettuces, they ruin them.

3. Harvest chillies. Chilli trees should be absolutely smothered in chillies… more than 100 at least on a chilli shrub. They’re just starting to ripen. You’ll have more than enough to make a few jars of Sweet Chilli Sauce, or a few bowls of Chilli Fried Rice!

4. Leave a few beans to save for seed. Some of my runner beans have done their dash, but rather than pulling out the plants to feed to my compost heap, I’m leaving the vines for a few more weeks until the last pods have dried on the plant. Then I’ll shell them and save the seed to sow next year. It’s a good idea, when saving bean seed, to pop it into a glass jar in the freezer for a few days to kill any bugs that might be snuggled up inside the seeds. Then store in a paper envelope, labelled with the name of the variety.

5. Start picking pears and apples. Apples will ripen naturally on the tree but pears are best picked when they reach full size but start to change from rock hard to slightly springy when squeezed. Leave them to ripen in your fruit bowl for up to two weeks. Place a bunch of ripe bananas with them to speed up the process. I’ve got a HUGE crop of pears on my old tree this year, so I’m looking forward to trying Pear and Chocolate Crumble. You need: 300g plain flour, 50g of caster sugar, 200g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled, 100g rolled oats, 2kg of pears, peeled, cored and chopped, juice from 2 lemons, 150g brown sugar, 50g dark chocolate, chopped, plus a little extra brown sugar. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Put the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and mix until it forms a fine powder. Add the oats and mix. Chill. Put the pears in a saucepan with the lemon juice and the sugar. Bring to the boil, simmer until the pears become slightly tender. This could be up to 30 minutes. Allow to cool. When cool, place the pears in an oven proof dish. Add the chocolate and stir. Sprinkle on the oat mixture and a little brown sugar. Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until piping hot. Serve with custard or vanilla ice cream.

Thanks to Lynda at NZ Gardener.

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