October In The Vegie Patch

Asparagus, broccoli, peas, leeks harvested for dinner ediblebackyard

Around about now, spring planted seedlings start to grow that little bit faster as the soil and air slowly warms and it all gets pretty exciting. Do your best to keep your head and don’t rush into planting summery stuff on the first fine day. Wait patiently for conditions to be right. There’s really no hurry. Stick to planting stuff that suits the conditions. It sounds a bit boringly sensible, but there are heaps of cool crops for cooler weather.

If you do leap in too fast, and your crops flop because conditions arent right – c’est la vie, just sow or plant or buy another lot and tick it up to experience.

Keep the Garden Rolling

spring peas shooting away in their trays

Gluts from the garden are fun, but a regular steady supply is where its at . Keep the garden productive by sowing or planting a new thing every week. and/ or every time you harvest or a crop shoots to seed or is done, fill the space right away. Every little space, and as well as keeping your garden productive, you’ll also keep it weed free cos if its always full, there’s no room for weeds! Simple.

nursery plants
Old parsley plants make an excellent nursery to protect new salads

Use the space beneath older/ finishing crops to plant or sow new stuff. Old nurturing the new is the way of all things. As parsley, broccoli or endive (for example), tower off to seed they become a nursery for new seedlings. Snap off enough older foliage so as that light can show through while leaving enough cover to soften rain/sun/wind. Tucking seedlings under crops also saves the need for putting up birdnetting. This space is golden!

There are heaps of team type moments like this, in the garden. I’ve just planted a new lot of seed potatoes around nearly finished broccoli. If there is cold or frosty weather when the potato sprouts appear above ground, the broccoli foliage will soften the blow. Go deeper and imagine those seed potatoes below ground aided and abetted by the established soil life community in which they nestle. An established community which provides a scaffold from which they can spring.

Fake up Some Heat

Soil Thermometer

Whatever you do my friends, don’t plant heat loving summer crops outside – not yet! If you’re new to vegie gardening, that’d be tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucumbers, zuchinni, pumpkin, beans, corn and kumara. They wont thank you for it if your night temps are still below 13 degrees (we got down to 2 last night!) and soil is cooler than 18 degrees. Those there are my golden numbers for summer crops.

Should you be so lucky to have a greenhouse, summer crops a go! Pots on a sunny porch will be sweet as well. There’s no race ok. Unless you live somewhere with a short growing season in which case you need to fake up some warmth for long term crops like kumara and pumpkin. Both crops need to get in ground as soon as poss for a good long season of growing, but not so early that conditions aren’t right and they crap out in the cold + wet.

Use cold frames, or lay plastic over cloche hoops or on the ground or make a little house out of bubble wrap – it doesn’t take much. Just use whatever you have laying about.

These black plastic off cuts are hodge podged together to warm my soil up for receiving kumara shoots sometime this month. It’s like jumping into a bed that’s been pre warmed with an electric blanket – delicious! and plants can get straight on with the job of growing without the pause while they decide whether to stop or go.

pockets in the lupin play host to the next crop - squash
Pumpkin seedlings safely tucked up in the lupin protected from up + down spring weather

If you don’t quite trust the weather and pumpkin or courgette seedlings are ready to plant, cover them with wondermesh or frost cloth – that extra layer makes all the difference. Or protect new seedlings by planting them amongst finishing crops. Come up with a cunning plan!

October checklist and things to do

tomato frames are up
  • Be sure of robust stakes and frames for beans and tomatoes
  • Tie broadbeans to keep them upright through spring winds. A stake at each end of the row and twine wrapped around in the middle and again at the top of the stakes is how I do it.
  • Forage for OM (organic matter) in the community. .. cardboard, spoiled hay, manure, seaweed… Chances are your stash has dwindled with all the spring plantings and compost making that’s been going on. Make sure you have something rotting away to keep mulched topped up through summer and to side dress all your heavy feeders November onwards.
  • Make a compost pile with all your spring clean up (or four!, such lot of ingredient about right now) and theres nothing that will get your garden humming, like your own compost.
  • Get your zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, corn, tomato and pepper beds ready to grow. These are all heavy feeders and need layer of lovely compost spread on the bed.Thin September sowings of beetroot and carrots. Take carrots out to about 2cm and thin beetroot down to groups of 3 or 4. If you are careful you can transplant the spare beetroots (in little bunches, aye. Not alone.
  • Get everything mulched or sown or planted before the weeds get away. If you have no seedlings or mulch – sow a greencrop! Such a quick/ cheap solution
  • Check in with your soil – feel it, smell it, eyeball it. Get to know it!
eggplant seedling
Birdsticks – simple but effective!

Seed to Sow and Seedlings to Plant

The nursery is full noise right about now – don’t you just adore raising seedlings?! After all these years, it never gets old. October is when it peaks, settling down next month once all the long term crops are in and we return to little and often sowing for little and often supply.

In the Greenhouse or Somewhere Toasty!

greenhouse tomatoes planted amongst saladings ediblebackyard nz
Greenhouse tomatoes planted amongst last months salad plantings

Direct sow another lot of dwarf beans.
Direct sow basil, cucumber and zucchini. Cruise it here. Remember you can tick away with these guys over the next 4 months, planting newbies each month for regular supply.

greenhouse cukes
Greenhouse cucumbers will grow up this frame

Plant out zucchini and cucumbers. Its far too cold outside at my place at the mo. for these guys. Infact I don’t even bother with outside cucumbers now – I grow them in the greenhouse all summer.
Plant out tomatoes, peppers, chillies, eggplants and basil. Hello summer!

Tray Sow
Pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, melons, corn, salads, basil, beans, tomatoes and companion flowers like sunflowers, gaillardia, calendula, zinnias and oodles of marigolds.

Peas, beans and corn are all well suited to growing in toliet rolls. There’s no transplant shock because you plant them out loo roll and all!

Fill loo paper rolls with seed raising mix, firmly pack it down. Make a hole up to the first joint of your pinkie and pop the corn seed in and cover over. Jam the rolls together in a container so they don’t fall over/ collapse and keep in a warm, rodent free place. Don’t over water or they’ll rot.

Raising seedlings in toliet rolls ediblebackyard nz

Direct Sow Outside
Mostly I tray sow. It buys me extra time while the weather is so up and down. Plus I can leave existing, producing crops in the ground a bit longer this way. You do what suits your garden and mood best. And if you’re not sure then try some tray sown and some direct sown – no better way to work it out than to have a play!


Radish, daikon, coriander, carrot, beetroot, florence fennel, dill, peas, sno peas, rocket, salads, spinach, leafy greens, phacelia, calendula, borage, sweet peas and cosmos. 

Once the soil hits 15 degrees you can direct sow beans.
Once it hits 20 degrees zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, melons and corn can be direct sown.

Plant outside
Plant out salads, red onions, celery, silverbeet, perpetual beet, asparagus crowns, potatoes, yams, rhubarb and parsley

Beware the seed eaters!

Mice, rats, slugs, snails and slaters are about at this time of year. It’s worth managing them cos one night visit from any of these guys sets your food garden back.

Rodent management is essential for a food gardener, and I think, a cool thing for all of us to pitch in and do. No matter where you live – you have rats! Food gardens are a rodent hotel – cosy homes (compost piles) and food supply (avocados, seed, compost nomnom). At this time of year they love gobbling up corn, pumpkin and sunflower seed. Make trapping part of your regime.

slater trap
Yoghurt trap for slaters

Slaters love newly sprouted seed, nibbling the newly germinated shoot off and completely ruining your day. Make a trap by putting a spoon of yoghurt in a small container. Top it up with water. Bury it in your seedtray or garden so the edge is at ground level. Slaters love this stuff. Or sprinkle Tui Quash slugbait about to deter them.

Slugs and snails are getting going too. They love asparagus, peas, carrots, echinacea – anything new really! Protect every new shoot from them in spring to avoid re sowing.

Slug Hunt

At this time of year I pop out on moonlight evenings and do a big old snail squash and slug capture, tossing them into a bucket of limey water as I go (literally lime dissolved in water) where they foam and froth and finish off. Don’t throw them over the fence! Bad karmaπŸ˜‰ and besides, they’ll be back.

I remove the mulch until the soil warms and weather turns – this reduces slugs heaps and has meant I’m using hepas less slug bait. Tui Quash is the most affordable, least toxic slug bait I can find.

Herb Companions

lavendar hedge

Plant out chives, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender and any other perennial herbs you need. Not only are they dinner and cuppas and medicine, but they’re all such good landscaping plants! Evergreen perennials ease the gardeners life – standing guard over bare, wintery soils that’d otherwise need mulching. Sage is one of my dessert island herbs …. so tasty fresh and such a good/ easy sore throat treatment to have on hand. Her grey, textured leaves are a sweet foil that offset for other plants. Thyme, chives and oregano make excellent edge plants en masse – oregano the best of the 3 at beating out incoming weeds. Rosemary is an awesome small place shelter and lavender is one plant you just cant have enough of. All without exception, provide pretty flowers for bees and bugs and humans to eat and enjoy.


  1. Elise Curnow says

    Hi Kath, I am having a problem with white fly. It started last summer in my mint patch and soon got out of hand. I pulled up all the host plants, which included mint, lemon balm and borage πŸ™ and grew some tobacco plants (on the suggestion of a friend), Now the weather has warmed up again it appears they are still around and the cycle is continuing again. I have a beautiful self seeded borage which is taller than me and I am loathe to cut it down. I am about to put in two new raised beds with new soil, which I really don’t want the white fly to spread to. Any suggestions how to be rid of this plague? Thanks

  2. Hi Kath,

    I see you love your Broadfork. I’ve been looking at these and dropped a not-so-subtle hint to my family for a Chrissy present. But now I’m thinking why wait? When it’s most valuable to me right now! There are a few sizes and design options – and I want to get the right one. What’s your suggestion for a good ‘all-rounder’ fork to be used by a slightly shorter than average, but strong and fit, female?


    • I like your style Kirstie – why wait! A forksta will be the best thing you ever buy for your garden! To get the very best advice here you need to go straight to the source – hit up Marco or Tess at crafty gatherer for their advice. They make them so they know them well. happy shopping! Kath

  3. Sue Patterson says

    HI Kath,
    I have been waiting for my kumara mothers to sprout since the end of August! I have followed your e-book instructions re planting and have endeavoured to keep them moist, and they are in my mini-greenhouse. I am wondering if I can still expect them to deliver or whether I have to buy in some tipu to be in time? Thanks for your advice, as always!
    Sue in Murch

    • Such patience! Def expect action by now.
      Check these two things out for me ok – hows the mother – is she sound as a pound? Also what temperature is your sand?
      talk soon

      • Sue Patterson says

        Thanks Kath. Mother is firm and seems in good shape – just not doing anything. Sand temperature – well depends on time of day. just now (evening) it feels quite cold even though in the mini-greenhouse. (This is South Island and inland.) I suspect that is the problem – would have been better kept inside the house. Is it worth relocating (for instance to the hot water cupboard) and persevering or am I definitely going to be too late for this season?
        Sue in Murch

        • I would get it some where toasty warm – it needs to be 20 degrees night and day. A soil thermometer is cheap as chips will help out heaps! so you know you are reaching the temp you need. Go for it I say! Unlikely you can buy tipu for a bit anyway. best

          • Sue Patterson says

            Thanks Kath! The hot water cupboard will be it, And I will get the soil thermometer. Once the tipu sprout (trusting they do), I assume I will need to move them into the light during the day but put them back in the cupboard overnight – does that make sense? – or do they only need the constant day and night temp until they sprout?

          • Just leave them toasty and warm until they sprout ok which is when they will need the sun but also toasty warmth. I will leave this with you as to how you create this combo πŸ™‚ but for now, while the sprouts are still in the dark they dont need sun. Wish you many tipu!

  4. Sue Patterson says

    Mother now has 5 tipu πŸ™‚ She lives on a sunny table during the day and goes back in the warm cupboard overnight (as we are still having frosts). Thanks for all your help with this, Kath!

  5. Helen Burfield-Mills says

    Hi Kath,
    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy having your pruning book! You make everything so simple an easy to follow. Thanks so much. It is really helpful.

  6. Emily Efford says

    Hi Kath, do you have any advice for breaking the life cycle of red spider mites organically?

    They infested my garden last year and I am already seeing early signs of them, despite the rain!


    • Red spider mites usually hang out where in dry conditions so that’s pretty mysterious! Are you sure its red spider mites you got there Emily? If it is and you’ve already got them building up this early I’d use Neem – naturallyneem.co.nz

  7. Hi Kath I’ve never used gypsum or mineral fertiliser – are there any particular specifications or brands that you would recommend? Thanks heaps, Alana

  8. Emily Efford says

    I’m pretty sure they are – they look the same as the critters that destroyed my beans last year. Pretty ominous to see them this early! Will try the neem, thanks.

    • The great thing is that mites are suckers so if you’ve mistaken them for another sucker the neem will still do the job. There are really good identification sites online – it’d be interesting to check them out and be sure mites is what you’ve got. Best Kath

  9. Hi Kath,
    I have quite a bit of spoiled hay from this winter and was wondering what I can use it for in the verge garden. I am worried that the seeds will all germinate and I will be pulling out the grass for months to come. Any thoughts?
    Also I finally have some fruit trees so am excited to use your pruning book which I bought when it came out πŸ™‚


    • Spoiled hay is the very best! So nutritious – outstrips straws by a country mile. 2 options. Leave it out in a pile to sprout before you use it – though I always need mulch now! Or simply flip it over at the first sign of the green fuzz. Easiest weeding you’ll ever do and well worth it. You just wait to see the worms and soil improvements. Lucky you!

  10. Nerissa Kirby says

    Hi Kath,
    I’ve been using copper regularly through the last few months, however, my nectarine tree is already showing signs of curly leaf. Is there anything else I can do?
    Kind regards, Nerissa

    • Nectarines are sitting ducks for leaf curl Nerissa! No point in copper at this stage and no rescue from it either. You could pluck the infected leaves and burn them – when they drop they’ll perpetuate the fungus through next season. Spray weekly with good quality seaweed to help the second lot of leaves the tree is now having to produce. Read all this info to setup something for next year – managing it begins in Autumn at leaf fall ok. https://www.ediblebackyard.co.nz/to-copper-spray-or-not/

  11. Lesley McGregor says

    HI Kath

    What are you using as your fill spectrum mineral fertiliser now that you’re aiming to reduce plastic in the garden?


    • Fodda makes a beaut fert which recycles pest fish (carp) and organic coffee grounds among other goodness, tested for mineral balance and comes in a paper bag. To be sure the inner is plastic, but at this stage this is the best I know of re quality product + minimal plastic packaging.

  12. Sam Dollimore says

    Kia ora Kath, I just did a (really wonderful, thank you) workshop with you and as I was leaving I fell completely in love with the AMAZING smelling lavender you have all about your garden! Could you please tell me what kind of lavender it is? Many many thanks, Sam

  13. Hi Kath, loving your website – thank you! (and I’ll treat myself to your pruning book πŸ™‚

    I have an asparagus question. I have a whole lot of new asparagus crowns to go in and I’m wondering what you can suggest to really spoil them?

    I FINALLY have a huge and brand new vege garden again. It’s currently bare dirt on well-draining pumice-type soil.

    I have easy access to a ton of horse poo (I know – how lucky am I!) – so that will be in the asparagus bed by the wheelbarrow load.

    I will get the soil tested, but am keen to keep things as organic as possible and was curious about what extra goodies you use on your asparagus?

    • For asparagus the first thing is drainage – absolutely key to be free draining. Next get rid of perennial weeds as you dont want them coming up through the patch ever after. Then pile on seaweed seaweed cos its a coastal vege and manure and let it all rot down or if you are planting now then fresh manure is no bueno – buy in good compost and lay it on the cardboard thickly, about 10cm, mulch with seaweed and cover with leaves or other dry mulch … if you can get hold of sea wrack which washes up on the beaches then thats awesome. Sprinkle seawater over the crown when you plant them. Enjoy!

  14. Hi Kath, In your fourth pic of the wonder mesh you have a herb? in the front of pic. I think this is something that is popping up everywhere in my garden, perhaps via compost. It is creeping underground, but close to surface and relatively easy to lift but I was worried it would become a pest. Can you tell me what it is please?


    • The wonderful Anise Hyssop – or Agastache. Most beloved by the bees and does self seed but not sucker so probs you have something else. Try not to worry about weeds too much just remember that as you change and improve your soil so too the weeds change, just keep composting and mulching and weeding while things are small and all will be well πŸ™‚

  15. Loo rolls! Great idea. I’ve been looking at those for years thinking they should be good for something.
    Your photo looks like you have cut the roll in half, or, it is stuck into soil? Is it either case, or is it an optical illusion?

  16. Hi Kath, your broccoli look SO good. I’m having problems with my broccoli and caulis – they don’t bolt to seed but they don’t form tight heads – they just kind of splay out and look awful! I’m not sure what the missing element is. Thanks for any suggestions πŸ™‚

    • Hey Liz
      Broccoli and caulis are the trickiest! Its all the little things that come together to make those beautiful tight heads from healthy robust seedlings and the good soil they were planted into to a daily check to catch them when any stress starts. At some point they will have been stressed out – whether from being hungry or waterlogged or perhaps a sudden hot day followed by really cold.
      First place to check is the soil. Pick up a handful and gently squeeze it together then open your palm and shake it. Poor soil that lacks nutrition will be dry and all run through your fingers. Heavy clay soil that lacks air and drainage will retain its shape. Good growing is like chocolate cake – it’ll will have a few crumbs and sort of stick together. Getting to know your soil is the single best thing you can do to explain why things dont work. Once you make chocolate cake you are away laughing!! Youll find that everything will on the whole grow really well. Add compost and minerals and it will all come together.
      No definitive answer here for you or any quick fix, rather the encouragement that one day you too will have mighty fine broccoli!

      • Oh thanks so much for the great reply! That makes sense – as it’s only our garden’s first year and so the soil is still being ‘grown’ with all the goodies that add up over time. I think I’ll invest in some of the Fodda mineral you often mention! Thanks again πŸ™‚

  17. My biggest issue is green vege bug…i plant catch crops for it…so i can squish them…but there are so many all year…idont want to spray tho…any sugestions?

  18. Hi Kath.
    This is my first year of having a functional green house and already it is totally infested with aphids sucking the life out of my dear plants.
    What would your advice be to manage this?

  19. Hi Kath, received your book last week and immediately devoured it- absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much!! I’ve just prepped a bed for some summer veg and have sown with some flowers as living mulch, but am anxious about the soil being bare in the meantime. All my other lovely mulchy stuff is destined for other beds, but I do have a giant feral fruit salad tree down the back.. do you think that the leaves would be okay as mulch if I chop them with the lawnmower?

    • Fruit salad tree?? Dont know of such a thing! Look beneath the tree for clues – where its leaves fall is there still stuff growing or does it look wiped out? Try it is the very best way. Forage for a bit of extra stuff – a mixture is always the best… add in seaweed or small trimmings or grass clippings. Or sow a greencrop. Enjoy!

  20. Hi Kath,
    I recently received your book and am 3/4 of the way through it. I think it’s great. I am very passionately getting into my veggie gardening. I am new to gardening and have been doing it for 6 months now. I read your blog post on pyralid contamination. I suspect this is the case with my broadbeans. They look just like the pictures. I used certified organic compost, however I also used blood and bone (not certified), could it be from that? If so, how? If it is that, that would be devastating, it’s been spread all over the place (I did this before I got your book). You mentioned cleaning with mustard crop. Do I then need to dispose of the crop into the waste? Thanks

    • Blood and bone is a by product of farming which is lets face it, herbicide and pesticide happy and all those chems carry on over into the b and b. Which is a damn shame because in and of itself, an excellent fertiliser. I no longer use it.
      As for organic compost, I’m careful who I choose.
      No one really knows what to do to rectify pyralids entering your garden via bought compost, but as the world is looking at this now more info will come to light. I’d use mustard greencrops and EM (EMNZ.com) and rest the bed. If successive crops show damage (corn wont because its a grass) go to the soil food web laboratory and see if they can help. Hop online – there will be heaps of folks like you.
      Its shocking aye. I could cry a river, but theres a cool as opportunity here for us to take charge of our fertility with food scraps, greencrops, safe manure, seaweed, leaves etc
      Hope this helps
      Love Kath

  21. Hi Kath, thank you for all your tips & tricks πŸ™‚ I have grown some zucchini from seed, the plants are looking awesome. I have room for 2 in the glasshouse but now have 3 which are hanging out before they head outside. As I live in Ballance, near Pahiatua, it’s not quite time for that yet. Any suggestions to keep them going well before planting out – seaweed fert & into bigger pots maybe? Appreciate your help.

    • You dont need me – you’re on the right track! Move them into a bigger pot and perhaps find a place outside the greenhouse but not the garden – a porch or sunny sheltered corner to acclimatise them. And yes a light liquid feed will help too. Enjoy! Kath

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