October 16, 2009 In the Garden

  • In the vegetable garden, the end of October signals the time for the major plant out for summer crops. The soils are warming up by then and for all but the most extreme areas, the threat of a late frost is over. Even minor late frosts can be devastating to plants with tender, young growth. It is not critical that you time it for Labour Weekend – a week or two either side is fine. But if you have your garden all dug and ready and waiting, keep raking it regularly to expose any germinating weeds to the sun and air and to keep it well tilled and fluffed.
  • The only reason to raise a vegetable bed any more than about 20cm above the ground is to save your back. As vegetables rarely go much deeper than that, any additional depth is wasted soil which will compact over time. But raising the bed a little does stop you walking on it and compacting it. If you do not have permanent paths to keep you off the soil, you can use wooden boards that you move around. Pavers are also a good option that can look attractive and you can lay yourself at moderate cost.
  • Mounding rows of the vegetable beds on an east-west axis has been proven to accelerate growth, particularly when soils are heavy, damp or cold. Mark routinely mounds his vegetable rows here. The east-west axis is to ensure maximum and even exposure to the sun.
  • Keep sowing a few lettuce seeds each week to ensure continued supply. One of the skills of good veg gardening is managing successional sowing to keep a range of vegetables available in the garden, rather than feast or famine. A diary is very helpful to record what you have done, as long as you remember to refer to it next year. While it is getting late for main crop onions, those sown now can be harvested as spring onions later.
  • In the ornamental garden, give top priority to planting out woody trees and shrubs before we get too warm and dry, pruning evergreens, dividing perennials and feeding anything that looks needy. Time is fast running out for all these tasks. It is already too late for moving trees and shrubs. Wait until autumn to carry out further relocations.
  • If you are currently enjoying clivias, especially the highly desirable lemon or even peach toned varieties, you can increase the chances of your plant producing good seed by hand pollinating. This involves transferring the pollen from one plant to the anthers of another plant. Usually a paint brush is used to carry out this process. If you carried out this operation as we advised last year, the seed is probably still on the plant and it is fine to collect and sow it now.
  • Lawns are currently showing their weaknesses including major weed infestations. You can green up sad, yellow or starved looking lawns with fertiliser (the locally produced Bioboost can be spread any time without risk of burning dry lawns). Keep shunning hormone sprays for a few weeks longer to avoid any risk to surrounding plants coming into growth. While we normally advocate cutting lawns reasonably long (leave at least 2.5cm in length), scalping a lawn at this time can deal death to some of the seasonal weeds. The one weed we think you can justify spraying is the highly undesirable and prickly Onehunga weed. Seek advice from your local garden centre as to what is currently recommended to deal to this menace to bare feet. If you have children in your life, you will need to take action on this one.