October in the Vegie Patch

20 October 2013
Written by Kath Irvine | Images by Kath Irvine
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With the warm weather almost here,  Kath reminds us that October is get-ready-for-summer-abundance month, providing us with pointers to ensure a bountiful garden


I‘m doing something new! I’m opening my garden every Tuesday from October 8th through December 17th; 9.30 - 2.30. Come along for a garden stroll, a garden chat and, more important, nice cake and herbal tea. Entry fee is by koha. Come see what I’m up to in my food gardens and visit the smallest shop in the world to purchase Love Plant Life seeds, my beautiful seedlings, seedling trays, wooden spoons, sawdust and of course RokSolid. Cash only, no cheques or eftpos.


In the Vegie Patch

October is the get-ready-for-summer-abundance month! Boy oh boy there's lots to get done if we are to grow enough to fill our pantries for winter.  Get ready people, but wait till conditions are perfect before planting out those heat-loving crops.

The October garden is an up-and-down affair. Hot days followed by cold, followed by windy, followed by wet. The smart thing to do is to plant crops that match the conditions. Shoulder season crops like spuds, carrots, beetroot, brassicas, radish, saladings, celery and parsley don't mind mad spring weather. Cloches or greenhouses extend your growing season, the extra cover warms the air and the soil, letting you get summer underway early. Dwarf beans are popping up under my cloche and I'll soon be sowing zucchini, cucumber and early squash, these low-growing crops perfectly suited to life under cloches. In a couple of weeks my tomatoes and basil will be ready to plant in the greenhouse.

Preparations for summer crops are well under way. Make lots of compost, chop down greencrops, create awesome beds and tray sow seed for summer crops. Planting out into well-prepared beds is a joy. The soil has had a chance to settle back down, the soil life has re-established its gig - all is waiting and ready to receive the plants!

Tomatoes, basil, aubergines, beans and peppers are without a doubt summer people.
We all know some of these - those who complain bitterly on cold days, suffer through winter and usually end up moving north. Picture your winter-hating, I-wish-it-were-summer-all-year friend. Now imagine sending them outside in a sundress in winter. That’s how tomatoes feel when planted too early - blue lipped, goose-bumped and shivering.

There is national desperation to get tomatoes in early. I'm not sure why this is. Those with the first will also be the first finished - far outstripped at the other end by us later planters. I like to be as certain as can be that my summer vege will have a great time from transplant - warmer nights and drier soils mean they can grow unfettered onward and upward with next to no problems. My outside tomatoes have only just sprouted. It’ll be another six weeks or so till planting out.

Unless you live up north or at the seaside, ignore summer seedlings at the supermarket. When questioned our friendly supermarket plant lady admits - yes I know it's too early, but people want them. Que? My kids want cocoa pops - so? Big sigh.

Clearly the responsibility is ours and ours alone. Even the garden centres who should know better have tomato and bean seedlings for sale. Seedling beans horrify me. My Scottish ancestors roll in their graves - the waste of money, of plastic, of everyone's time! (I still can’t look seedling beetroots in the eye). For goodness sakes get a packet of seed.

Your perennial beans will let you know whether your soils are warm enough for summer crops - they sprout when the soil is 15 degrees. Self-seeded tomatoes are another good clue. In the absence of perennial beans, a soil thermometer is cheap and simple to use and will leave you in no doubt.

  • Another lot of salad greens. Saladings do well direct sown. Make a mix of your favourite salad seeds and scatter sow them in a prepared spot. Press down nice and firm on top of the seed and sprinkle a thin layer of mulch on top. Make sure you put up bird protection, and don’t let the seed dry out. If its hot and dry a sack pegged on top of the seed bed will keep them moist – keep checking and when the seeds sprout take the sack off.
  • Direct sow coriander and rocket, and once the soil hits 15 degrees direct sow zuchinni, cucumber, pumpkin, beans and corn. I sow a few beans and corn each month until December to spread the harvest.
  • Tray sow late tomatoes; basil, parsley, chives and globe artichokes. Get the beds prepared at the same time.
  • Summer companions can be direct sown now - sunflowers, gaillardia, oodles of marigolds, zinnias, calendulas and cosmos
  • When the next full moon rolls around think of below-ground crops and direct sow another lot of carrots, beetroot and parsnip.
  • Yams can go in now. They do well in containers. This makes it easier to get all the tubers out at harvest time – avoiding a yam invasion next year!
  • Another lot of potatoes can go in too.
  • If you planted early potatoes you will probably need to hill them up about now - this first hilling up is really vital to get a good amount of tubers. Use whatever organic matter you have to hand. At the moment I’m hilling up with a mix of old hay, new comfrey leaves, chookyard sawdust and soil.


In the Chookyard



You'll know she's broody because she will still be sitting in the nesting box in the evening and when you try to get her off she'll fluff up her feathers and growl at you. You can either shock her out of feeling broody by putting her into the broody box, or tuck her up somewhere safe and let her have it. Either way you need to get her out of the chook house so she stops scaring the others away from the nesting box. The length of time she has been broody for is how long she will take to get back to laying.

A broody box is a cruel-looking thing. It’s goal to cool your chook down and stop her snuggling down to nest. It’s not all bad - there is fresh water and a bowl of grains, a roof even; but the floor is made of reinforcing wire, so it's three days of standing up.

There are other nastier ways of getting the broody out of the chook, from hobbling one leg, to holding in icy cold water, to hanging in a sack (good grief), so perhaps a broody box ain’t so bad! I know, it's tough (and I can feel the emails coming on), but if you can’t bear the thought of your lovely chook standing for three days then let her be broody. Just put her somewhere cosy and safe to sit it out. Keep her fed and watered and in about three weeks she'll be up and about and over it. The cost for your kindness will be another three weeks to come back to lay.




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