October 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.

tomato seedlingsThere is national desperation to get tomatoes in early. Am 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 6 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 its 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 everyones 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.

Seed to sow this month:

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.

gaillardiasmallSummer 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.


  1. I love your comparison of the sun loving friend in their sundress. It so makes sense and will think of my tomatoes forever more as those summer loving, feel the cold friends… it does however make me wonder how I will ever grow toms in Welly without a greenhouse or the merino under the sundress!
    I love your style – thanks for a such creative writing.

    • Of course you will! You will just choose tomatoes that are a bit tougher than most like how I will happily wear barefeet whilst mum is still in wooly socks…. combined with perhaps a little extra shelter like a bit of plastic attached to two stakes, standing behind your tomato on the south side et voila – tomatoes in Wellington!