Expect some weather extremes this month. We usually get lots of wind in October so be prepared to give your tall plants some means of support. The hot weather can come as a shock to tender new plants so now is the time to move pots to their summer positions and get out the shade cloth for tender greens like lettuces. Don’t forget to water your new plants if the rains fail. Keep a lookout for pests such as aphids and note how many bees are about. If there are few, plan on planting more flowers next year. Take a look at your neighbours’ gardens to see what plants are flowering now. It is a lovely time of the year to go for a walk after all!

Jobs to do in my Ocean Grove garden this month:

Peas - ready for picking
Peas – ready for picking
  • Harvest the last of the peas, kale and broccoli before removing the plants to make way for tomatoes and zucchinis.
  • Provide supports for the tomato plants and tie them up as they grow.
  • Cut back the perpetual spinach hard when it starts to go to seed.
  • In dry weather, water the new seedlings, the vegetables growing in pots and boxes and give the fruit trees a good soak once a week.
  • Water the vegetables and new plants with Seasol every one to two weeks.
  • Water leafy veg, and new vegetable seedlings with Powerfeed every two weeks.

Learners Corner

If you have not grown vegetables before, good ones to start with are zucchinis and tomatoes. Now is the time to plant these out into garden beds. There are many varieties to choose from and it is OK to grow them together. The cherry tomatoes tend to fruit early and usually have fruit by Christmas. Other varieties do not produce fruit until February. When you taste them you will discover that they are worth the wait.

Zucchini - get ready for great summer eating
Zucchini – get ready for great summer eating

Zucchinis come in several shapes and colours. They will cross-pollinate so unless you want to grow funny-looking veg that still taste delicious, it is better to stick to one variety such as ‘Blackjack’.

Be sure to prepare the area well beforehand. Just pull out all the weeds. Sprinkle some good quality general-purpose fertiliser such as blood and bone and/or Dynamic Lifter over the patch and water it well. Cover with a chopped mulch such as pea straw, lucerne or sugar cane and water again. Protect from curious dogs, if you have one.

Tomato plants can be grown in large pots (at least 40cm diameter) or in specially designed bags. Do buy the best quality potting soil that you can afford. There a mixes designed for vegetable growing which include slow release fertilisers and water retaining materials. The advantage of using pots is that they can be set up in a warm sheltered spot. Tomato plants can get really big so don’t plan on moving them after the first few weeks.

To plant zucchinis, first separate the seedlings into individual plants.  Handle them gently, holding them by the leaves. They are quite strong seedlings but if you damage the stem, they will not recover. Using a trowel, dig a hole slightly bigger than the plant. Pop it in the hole so that the leaves are just above ground height then backfill the hole and firm up the soil around each plant.  Plant them at least 50cm apart.  When they are all planted, water them well with a seaweed solution such a Seasol or worm juice diluted 1 part in 10 parts water.

Tomato seedlings maturing in greenhouse
Tomato seedlings maturing in greenhouse

Tomatoes are easy to plant. If they have long stems, it is a good idea to plant them so that the lowest leaves are just above the ground level, as roots will grow from the stems. Other than that, plant as for zucchinis, with at least 60 cm between plants. Place a hardwood or bamboo stake (at least 1.5m long, preferably 2m) in the ground about 5 to 10 cm from the plant. As the plant grows, you will need to tie it to this stake for support.

For the Experienced Gardener

Now is the perfect time to get basil seeds to germinate. There are lots of exciting varieties of basil other than the usual ‘sweet basil’. I have found the Thai basil easy to grow and great to use in Asian dishes. The lettuce leaf variety has very large leaves and works very well in tomato salads. Basil seeds are very small so it usually works best to sow them into a seed tray and transplant them later into the garden when the weather is warmer. They need warmth to germinate so either place in a greenhouse or inside the house in a brightly lit spot that does not get direct sunshine. A bathroom or laundry can be ideal.

If you are planning to grow some climbing or bush beans, check out some unusual and heritage varieties. The purple-podded beans look great in the garden with their pink flowers. They cook up green and taste delicious. There are a number of yellow beans that look good mixed with the green ones in a salad. My favourite is ‘Stuttgart Giant’ which produces a large number of good-sized tasty beans. It is OK to grow them together as they self-pollinate.

Seeds to sow this month

Beans (climbing & bush), beetroot, cucumbers, leeks, lettuce, pumpkins, spring onions, sweetcorn, zucchini, basil, dill, Thai basil.

Seedlings to plant out this month

Capsicum, chillies, cucumber, eggplant, leeks, lettuce, onions, pumpkins, spring onions, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, perilla, Thai basil.

The War Zone

If the green caterpillars are winning, it may be time to pull out the kale and broccoli and grow zucchinis or cucumbers instead.

Slugs and snails are able to destroy your seedlings overnight. A sprinkling of snail bait round the seedlings should take care of them. However make sure that children, pets and wildlife are not able to get to it. A bird net over the area will do the trick. The net can be supported by a frame made out of bamboo stakes joined by poly tubing. If you go round the garden at night after it has been raining you will discover if you have a potential problem – so be prepared!

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