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 rotten manure, compost, seaweed – that kind of business.  Add it now, so the soil can incorporate and percolate – all ready to plant later in the month once your soil has warmed enough.
  • 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 three).

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

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.

Rodent management is essential for a food gardener, and I think, a cool thing for all of us to pitch in and do. Food gardens are a rodent hotel after all – 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 (it’s petsafe and chemical free).

Last minute preps for Tomatoes, Pumpkins and Corn

In an ideal world preps begin with the preceeding crop – in the case of these heavy feeders nothing beats a lupin or pea and oat greencrop through winter 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 if you need it, and lightly mix it all into the topsoil.
  • Mulch thickly and let it settle until planting.
  • Put up stakes and frames pre planting.

Pumpkin and Melon Preps

  • Create raised mounds made of 50/50 compost and soil. Add rotten manure. Add minerals if need be.
  • Cover deeply in mulch for best biological activity and leave it be. Do what you need to, to warm things up.
  • Direct sow into this when the soil is 20 °. Because they are low growing and need no frame pumpkins are well suited to starting out under a cloche if its still chilly/ soggy at yours. You can of course, tray sow them and transplant at 4 – 6 leaf stage. Pumpkins need a long season to ripen – as early as you can manage is good.

Corn Preps

  • Broadfork the bed so the roots can head to china
  • Add a fine layer of compost + rotten manure. Lightly mix it all into the topsoil.
  • Mulch generously and let it settle until planting.
  • Direct sow once soil hits 18 – 20°.
  • For staggered harvests sow a few a month now until December
  • 2 ways to get your corn going. Either put up a cloche and direct sow once the soils warm. Or sow into loo paper rolls filled with seed raising mix. Jam the rolls together in a container so they don’t fall over/ collapse and keep in a warm 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 🙁 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 🙂 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 🙂 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.