October In The Vegie Patch

Asparagus, broccoli, peas, leeks harvested for dinner ediblebackyard

There’s a bit of healthy tension in the mid spring vegie patch as you choose which crops to remove in order to make way for the new. Sometimes that means removing things before they reach their prime – I’ve just harvested the last leeks and florence fennel, they weren’t fully developed but usable none the less and made room for all my kohlrabi, beetroot and kale seedlings that needed planting. Same goes with broccoli that I’ve chopped out to plant potatoes today – they would’ve given more shoots but spuds need to go in … these are the calls we need to make at this time of year.

Sometimes it works to leave the older crops and plant the new crops out between them. Two for one deal here – keep harvests rolling and the older crops are a nursery for the young crops protecting them from up and down weather.

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

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 here unless you live somewhere with a short growing season in which case you need to fake up some warmth. Use cold frames, or lay plastic over cloche hoops or on the ground or make a little house out of bubble wrap – its 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.


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

  • Be sure of robust stakes and frames for beans and tomatoes
  • Get your zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, corn, tomato and pepper beds ready to grow. These are all heavy feeders and need atleast a 2cm layer of lovely compost spread on the bed.
  • 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.
  • Make a compost pile with all your spring clean up (or four!, such lot of ingredient about right now).
beetroot seedlings
  • 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 any gaps.
  • Plant out chives, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, lavender and any other perennial herbs you need.
  • Get everything mulched before the weeds get away.
  • Check in with your soil – feel it, smell it, eyeball it. Get to know it!
eggplant seedling
Birdsticks – simple but effective!
  • 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.   
  • Protect all new shoots and seedlings with slug bait and bird net or bird sticks
  • Prick on seedlings in trays as soon as they have 2 leaves and then again as they outgrow the container they are in.

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.

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. 

Soil thermometer measures 15 degrees - warm enough for beans!

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 I risk them 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 sprinkle Tui Quash round all newly sown seed and transplants as the most affordable, least toxic slug bait I can find.

Last minute preps for heavy feeders

In an ideal world, prep for a heavy feeder crops begins with the preceeding crop – nothing beats a lupin or pea and oat greencrop to condition and build the soil. But the world isn’t always ideal is it! Here’s how you can last minute it.

Tomato Preps

tomato frames are up

Pumpkin and Melon Preps

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
  • Create raised mounds of compost. 
  • Cover deeply in mulch or sow red clover for a living mulch.
  • Either direct sow into this when the soil is 20Β° or tray sow and transplant at 4 – 6 leaf stage. They need a long season to ripen so get them in as early as you can manage. Tray sowing gives you a head start.
  • I only grow melons in my greenhouse now – we just don’t get a consistent enough summer here to grow them outside.
  • If spring is taking a while to get going I plant pumpkin amongst a greencrop for extra protection. As the pumpkins grow, just break off the lupin and lay it down as mulch until gradually the lupin is gone and the pumpkins are away!

Corn Preps

  • Aerate the bed if heavy clay is yours
  • Add a generous 2 – 3cm layer of compost + rotten manure or minerals
  • Mulch generously
  • Corn is best direct sown into soil thats 16 – 18Β° but thats a wee way off for me so I get a head start by sowing in the greenhouse. Because corn is not a fan of being transplanted, I use either plug trays or toliet rolls. Toliet rolls!! Yip, they’re awesome for beans and sunflowers too. When seedlings are big enough to plant, plant out loo roll and all – neatly avoiding disturbing the root and leaving the loo roll to break down in the soil. 
Raising seedlings in toliet rolls ediblebackyard nz

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.


  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?