October In The Vegie Patch

Beautiful mauve poppies in the Edible Backyard potagerOctober is when seed raising peaks. It makes it easier, this busyness, when you know it’s just for a short burst. It settles down again come December when all the long term crops are well and truly in and we go back to little and often sowing for continuity of supply. There’s a bit of extra effort too, as we do our best to create the right conditions for long term crops like kumara and pumpkin. Get them in as soon as conditions are right for best ripening.

October checklist and things to do

  • Get your zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, corn, tomato and pepper beds ready to grow. These are all heavy feeders and need a 2cm layer of lovely compost.
  • 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 a row of 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).

beetroot seedlings

  • Thin September sowings of beetroot and carrots to 10cm spacings to be sure of good sized crops. 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
  • Keep your eyes out for OM (organic matter) waste in the community and forage it and stash it. Cardboard, spoiled hay, manure, seaweed…
  • Protect all new shoots and seedlings with slug bait and bird net
  • Prick on seedlings in trays as soon as they have 4 leaves.


Seed to Sow and Seedlings to Plant

Under Cloches, Old Windows, On the Porch or in the Greenhouse
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 out a new one each month for regular supply.
Plant out tomatoes, peppers, chillies, eggplants, basil, zucchini and cucumbers into warm soil. Hello summer!

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

Direct Sow Outside
Radish, daikon, coriander, carrot, beetroot, florence fennel, dill, peas, sno peas, rocket, salads, spinach, leafy greens, calendula, borage, sweet peas and cosmos. Greencrops after heavy feeders.
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!

slater trap

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.

the only good rat is a dead rat

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 (corn + sunflower seed nomnom). Make trapping part of your regime.

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. Asparagus, peas, carrots, echinacea – some things they love especially, but really you must protect every new shoot from them in spring or you’ll be re sowing. At this time of year I pop out on moonlight evenings and do a big old snail squash and slug capture. I sprinkle Tui Quash round all newly sown seed and transplants.

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

  • Broadfork the bed so the roots can get down straight as an arrow – this almost makes more difference than the compost I reckon!
  • Add a fine layer of compost + gypsum + a full spectrum mineral fertiliser to keep the 101 potential tomato problems at bay. Lightly mix it all into the topsoil.
  • Put up stakes and frames
  • Mulch thickly with a delicious herbal mulch

Pumpkin and Melon Preps

  • Create raised mounds made of 50/50 compost and soil. Add a few dollops of well rotten manure or seaweed.
  • Cover deeply in mulch for best biological activity and leave it be. Do what you need to, to warm things up.
  • Either direct sow into this when the soil is 20 Β°or tray sow and transplant at 4 – 6 leaf stage. Because they are low growing, pumpkins are well suited to starting out under a cloche. They need a long season to ripen so get them in as early as you can manage.

Corn Preps

  • Aerate the bed if heavy clay is yours
  • Add a fine layer of compost + minerals
  • Mulch generously
  • Direct sow once soil hits 18 – 20Β°.
  • For staggered harvests sow a few corn each month until December
  • I get better results when I direct sow corn. While you await warm soil, sow corn in toliet rolls for a head start and to avoid transplant shock. Fill loo paper rolls with seed raising mix and sow the seed. Jam the rolls together in a container so they don’t fall over/ collapse and keep in a warm, rodent free place. Plant out toilet roll and all for no transplant shock.


  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