October is probably the peak planting month for summer vegetables. Around here the frosts and cold winds are well behind us.
We have been picking loads of vegetables all winter and the Asparagus will pop out of the ground with the first sign of Spring or rain.
October is the month for storms (I can hear rumblings as I write this) along the coast and ranges – it is a good idea to have some protection ready for the vegetables. We use 50% white shade cloth. It will help to lessen the impact of really heavy rain or hail. On hot summer days it will also keep some of the heat off.
Some of the Summer vegetables are in the ground for a long time and I hope that it is timely to remind our gardeners of a few well tried ideas.
Climbing beans will take a while longer before they produce (compared with Bush Beans) but they will give you a much extended harvest. It is thus worthwhile to give them a decent trellis and dig the ground deep (the depth of a garden fork) and boost it up a bit with lots of compost. Beans are Legumes (and can “fix” Nitrogen). It is still worthwhile to give them enough Nitrogen (say in the form of Blood and Bone) as this definitely will increase yields. I like Blue Lake. It has been a reliable variety for us. Others will do well too but I tend to go more with the tried varieties. There are plenty others to try. Roc D’or – a fine French bean which is yellow. It comes highly recommended. “Provider” is a good one for us.
Spring Onion and other vegetables will be available.
This summer Pat will be again growing Kang Kong – an Asian Leaf Vegetable which can tolerate heat and wet feet really well. It is often referred to as ” Water Spinach”.
Remember that large seeds (Beans, Sweet Corn) should be planted into moist ground and generally need no further watering until germination. If you are to kind and give them too much water they may rot. Yes, ants and other insects can damage them and by buying seedlings you avoid this critical stage.
This is an excellent time to plant Sweet Corn. Plant it in a block – a dozen is probably the minimum and plant some more every 3 or 4 weeks to keep a steady supply. Sweet Corn needs a good feed. I keep saying this year after year. The reason you need to plant Sweet Corn as a block, rather than a line, is simply pollination. Sweet Corn is mostly wind pollinated. If the plants are lined up in a row, few pollen grains will hit the target (the tassels) and you will have many of the kernels missing.
So – please plant in a block and about a dozen is probably a reasonable minimum number.
Sweet Corn is known as a soil robber. Give it plenty of Blood and Bone or any fertilizer pretty high in N ( Nitrogen). Make sure that your Sweet Corn never dries out. Water deep every few days rather than shallow every day. How much is enough? As an average I would suggest that you give plants like Sweet Corn about 25mm of water. If we get some rain – say 10mm, add some from the hose. The roots will venture deeper and are able to access more nutrients resulting in a better crop.
Eggplants and Capsicum:
Both will take months before you can harvest. Plant into good soil in a warm spot. Both can get Fruit Fly. I find that the long Eggplants are much less susceptible then the “normal” types. We pick Capsicums while they are still green as they seem to attract more fruit flys as they colour up. Look at the “Green Harvest” website for many hints on how to minimise fruit fly attack. Mulch Eggplants and Capsicum well to make sure the moisture stays even in wet and dry conditions. Irregular watering will mean deformed fruit. A good, deep mulch helps.
Cucumbers are quite easy to grow but they need even moisture or the fruit will be deformed. A trellis will keep the fruit off the ground and free of slugs.
It is important to get the Nitrogen application just right. Too much Nitrogen and there will be too much leaf growth and fruiting will be delayed. Not enough and there will be insufficient leaves to protect the fruit from sunburn. I would prefer to see some extra leaves to protect the fruit.
Lettuce and Asian Vegetables tend to “bolt” rather quickly this time of the year. Make sure they are kept moist and well mulched and you will slow the process. Rather than planting large numbers at one time, plant a few of each variety regularly. Lettuce will be less “bitter” if grown shaded from the afternoon sun. Many gardeners don’t seem to know that Asian Vegetables have edible flowers. Indeed some like Kailan are eaten when they are flowering. Planting these vegetables in semi-shade is a good idea.
It is best to fertilize regularly as they will produce prolifically under good conditions. Fertilise when the soil is moist – before a storm or during a rainy spell is good timing.
As the weather is getting warmer transplant stress is also increased. Plant on a cloudy day or later in the afternoon to give the seedlings some settling in time. If you grow your own seedlings make sure that you harden them off before planting them out. The nursery environment is gentle on plants. An open garden bed in full sun is a tough place to survive. You may measure just 20C in the shade but the temperature in the garden in the full sun can reach 45C!! A shade temperature of 30C can mean 60C in the sun. Go and put a min/max thermometer out and see for yourself!
A general hint about fertilising – don’t fertilise during very hot spells. Plants are under stress and fertilising will only make things worse. Wait for a cooler spell, a cloudy day or just before rain. Your plants will reward you with a quick response. Of course a weak liquid fertiliser will never do any harm.
We make large quantities of weed tea. It is simple. Place all your problem weeds (including seeds and roots) in a large container (we use a small rainwater tank) and soak them for a few weeks. Aeration would be great. Adding some Mollasses is said to also be beneficial – just a teaspoon full per litre. Dilute 1 to 10 (one being the tea) and water the plants.
This is a good time to remind you to water the roots of hairy-leaved plants like Cucumbers, Zucchini, Tomatoes.. These plants don’t like over-head watering. This is the reason why Zucchinis do so well during dry periods.
To increase the survival chance of a seedling it is essential to keep the seedlings for a week or longer in the near full sun. (Pat’s seedlings have been sun hardened) Don’t buy punnets from Super Markets and Garden Centres where seedlings are often kept under heavy shade cloth (or worse, in an Air-conditioned space)
If the conditions are very sunny in your garden you may like to give the seedlings some shade (a few small branches) to reduce the shock. Keep them moist to minimise stress. Mulching will keep the roots cooler.
Some vegetables you can grow all year round with good success:
Radishes, Lettuce, Rocket, Asian Greens, Parsley, Spring Onions, Chicory…come to mind. They will have times when they are set-back because it is simply too hot or wet but it is worthwhile to persevere and keep planting.
What to plant in October:
Radish, all kinds of beans, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Squash, Zucchini, Pumpkin, Rocket, Onions – red, Water Melons, Rock Melons, Pak Choy, Tatsoi, Kailan, Parsley, Basil and other herbs, Rosella, Coriander, Carrots, Sweet Corn, Silver Beet, Spring Onions, Beetroot, Capsicum, Egg Plant, Tomato, Chicory – and some flowers! New season’s Honey:
We plan to be at the Witta Market with new season’s honey – a great batch! And Candles!!
We still have some Pecan nuts available. Better be quick.
The seedlings we expect to have at Lot 59 Crystal Waters on Thursday 18th October between 2 and 4pm and at the Witta Market on Saturday 20th October are:-
Beans Bush – Green, Yellow Butter
Beans Green Climbing- round and flat pods
Basil – Sweet, Thai and Greek
Capsicum (Red Bell)
Chilli – Jalapeño, Cayene, Birdseye, Bell, Thai, and Hotlips (Rocoto Tree Chilli)
Cucumber – Lebanese and Suyo Long
Eggplant – long
Kale – Red Russian, Tuscan and Green Curly
Onions – Red and Spring
Parsley – Italian and Curly
Pumpkin – butternut, JAP/ Kent, QLD Blue
Squash – Yellow Scallopini
Tomato – Black Krim, Gross Lisse, Money Maker, Roma, Scorpio and Tropic
Watermelon – Sugar Baby, Crimson Sweet and a large oval Heritage Zucchini
Plus a variety of potted herbs, flowers and advanced tomato plants.
We also have worm castings to help your seedlings shine.