Leaky hose irrigation lines

We had a very dry October so you are probably wondering if you will spend all your gardening time this summer watering the plants. Now is a good time to invest in automatic watering systems to save hours of hand watering in your home garden. It is easiest to connect up the tubes and drippers or sprays in warm weather, as the tubing is more pliable. For newly planted shrubs and perennials, drippers work well. Vegetables usually benefit from a drip hose or leaky hose that is situated under the surface.

If you time your watering to early morning or the evening you will lose less water from evaporation. In the dry windy days newly planted plants and vegetables will need watering daily for the first week or two. After that a good soak twice a week should be enough for most plants. Rain water is best for your plants as it does not contain any traces of chlorine. There is plenty of water in the rain water tanks in the community garden. You just need the patience to wait 15 seconds for the water to make its way to the tap.

Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

  • Mulch the newly planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplants with pea straw.

    Young tomato plant supported by bamboo pole
  • Set up bamboo poles to support the tomatoes and tie them to the poles. Pinch out the lateral shoots growing at the bottom of the plants.
  • Set up bamboo poles for the climbing beans and sow 3 seeds round each pole.
  • Keep cutting the flower stalks off the perpetual spinach and the silverbeet. The leaves are great in salads.
  • Prepare the old broccoli bed for the zucchinis buy adding organic fertiliser and compost. Plant the zucchini seeds in mounds of compost.
  • Keep up the water on the lettuces and other green veg. Don’t forget the fortnightly Seasol and Powerfeed.

Learners Corner

It is not too late to plant tomato plants but those planted now are unlikely to produce fruit until February. Once the tomatoes get to about 20cm high, they need a stake or pole for support. Tie the plants to the support using a soft material in such a way that they have room to grow. As they grow, continue to tie them to the support about every 20cm. This will stop the wind from damaging the plants. Don’t forget to water them in dry weather. They can be thirsty plants and they will benefit from some liquid fertiliser once a week until the fruits begin to form.

Newly planted basil seedlings

Now that the weather is warming up you can plant some basil. This grows well either in pots or in the open but needs lots of sunshine and water. It does best if planted into well fertilised soil and when given regular watering (once a week or so) with a liquid fertiliser such as Powerfeed. When they have about 3 pairs of leaves, pinch out the top ones and use in a salad or sauce. This will make the plant more bushy with more tender leaves and less chance of getting damaged by the winds.

If you planted zucchinis in October they should be growing well by now and may even be producing flowers. The female flowers have a small fruit at their base whereas the male flowers do not. If you are lucky you will get some of each and a week later you will see the zucchinis develop. Usually I find the male flowers appear first and the females a week or so later when the weather is warmer. By then the males may have disappeared! It is not the end of the world as the flowers taste lovely dipped in batter or beaten egg and fried. The fruits grow very fast and can turn into marrows overnight so check them frequently. They taste best when small.

You can continue to plant zucchinis until Christmas if you want a continual crop until Easter. They are pretty tough plants but they will need some water in dry weather. Try not to get water on the leaves as they as susceptible to fungal diseases such as mildew.

For the Experienced Gardener

Sweet corn planted as a block

November is a good month to grow sweetcorn from seed. As it is a wind pollinated plant it benefits from being grown in a block rather than in a row. Someone told me that pollination is most successful if you stick to one variety but I have never tested this. This is a good crop for a windy part of the garden. If you mulch the crop well after the seedlings have emerged it should stand up to the hot summer better than any other vegetable but it will still need watering at least weekly.

With the warm weather approaching it gets harder to grow lettuces. Rather unfortunate when we want to eat more salads! The lettuce seedlings for sale are hard to transplant unless they have a really good root system. This time of the year it is easy to get lettuce to germinate in seed trays as long as they are kept damp and out of the sun. There are varieties that are more suited to the hot weather so look out for them. In general the Cos and more open leafy varieties such as Oakleaf and Tango are less likely to wilt in hot weather. I have found it possible to grow them in shady spots through the hot weather as long as I cover them with shade cloth when the thermometer gets up to 30deg. The first week after transplanting is critical. As long as the seedlings are kept damp and protected from the sun during the middle of the day they should survive.

Seeds to sow this month

Beans (climbing & bush), leeks, lettuce, spring onions, sweetcorn, zucchini, basil, Thai basil

Seedlings to plant out this month

Capsicum, chillies, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce(Cos), spring onions, tomatoes, sweetcorn, zucchini, basil, Thai basil

The War Zone

Watch out for slugs and snails. They seem to have a population explosion every time it rains and your new seedlings are their favourite food. A light sprinkling of snail bait just after it rains should keep them away. See the October ‘notes’ for more detail.

Pear and Cherry slug on pear leaf
Pear and Cherry slug on pear leaf

If you have a pear or cherry tree you may notice some slimy looking creatures eating the leaves. This is ‘pear and cherry’ slug and is the larvae of the sawfly. It is not a slug at all! A squirt from a water hose should dislodge them. Alternatively  a quick spray on them with pyrethrum will knock them out. It is a contact spray so only spray the creatures themselves. There is no benefit in spraying the whole tree unless you have a bad infestation.

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