Vege patch to-do list
Robert Guyton’s guide to planting and sowing in harmony with the lunar cycle.
This month’s moon calendar, and edible crops to sow and tend now
October means it’s time for tomatoes!
Labour Weekend is the biggest gardening weekend of the year and although the three-day break was not expressly designed with gardeners in mind, it might as well have been because the day off occurs exactly when you need extra time in the garden! Some people have toms growing outside before late October, but as I say every year, I recommend waiting, especially if spring conditions are still chilly. Tomatoes need even temperatures (and an even watering regime) for best results. But there’s plenty to do in the meantime! If you’ve grown tomatoes from seed indoors start hardening them off now, moving them outside on fine days for a few hours at a time to acclimatise them to life on the outside. Find tomatoes a spot with about six or seven hours of sun a day and good airflow (many problems tomatoes are prone to are fungal in nature, and good air circulation helps prevent them occurring) and dig through sheep pellets, compost and tomato fertiliser to give them the rich soil they need. Do you add anything else to the soil when you plant your tomatoes? I’ve written before how some people add all sorts of things to the planting hole: from a handful of milk powder or egg shells (calcium deficiency is one of the causes of blossom end rot); molasses (to boost earthworm and soil microbial activity); Epsom salts (to prevent a sulphur or magnesium deficiency), or flowers of sulphur (said to prevent blight). I usually rely on good old sheep pellets and compost, but if you have a soil amendment that you swear by let me know and I’ll try it myself!
Sow dwarf, climbing & runner beans.
Beans are quick, prolific, delicious and scarcely troubled by pests and diseases apart from slugs and snails who have a taste for the new seedlings (if you have problems with those slimy creatures, start beans in trays and transplant rather than sow direct). Just give beans good drainage and moderate sunshine (they don’t like it too hot). October is a great time to sow dwarf beans, climbing beans, runner beans, drying beans – as many sorts as you have room for! But if you only have space for one, I’d suggest ‘Top Crop’. When NZ Gardener surveyed green-fingered experts to find the 100 best veges for Kiwis to grow a few years ago, this incredibly productive green dwarf bean came out tops.
Start zucchini from seed now.
Zucchini are easy to grow, provided you don’t sow or plant them too early. Like all cucurbits, they are heat lovers and sulk and shiver if it’s too cold. In my Auckland garden I sow direct this month but in cooler areas, start them in pots or trays under cover, and transplant when they have their first set of true leaves. Start other cucurbit crops such as pumpkins, melons and cucumbers from seed now too, but I would keep them inside for now and transplant out next month. All these crops are gross feeders so plant in fertile soil enriched with plenty of compost, or in a sunny spot at the base of a compost heap. Give them plenty of space too – every year I am surprised anew by how big zucchini plants and watermelon vines can get!
Plant new potatoes every fortnight.
Putting in another row of earlies (such as ‘Rocket’ or ‘Swift’) every two weeks will give you a constant supply of new spuds. Keep note of the planting date as many early varieties, such as ‘Liseta’, don’t flower. Plant main crop potatoes now too, especially if you have problems with the tomato/potato psyllid previously – plant now and they’ll be ready to harvest before the TPP population peaks.
Sow or plant lettuce & salad greens.
Once again successive planting is the way to ensure a steady supply… and prevent a glut that might be wasted. Lettuce seed is tiny and one packet of seed can contain up to a thousand potential plants. If you sow a whole packet and they are all ready at once, you might have an oversupply problem! So sow a new row every week or so.
Get personal with passionfruit.
You can improve fruit set on your passionfruit vine if you hand-pollinate the flowers that should be appearing now. Use a small paint or make-up brush to move some of the dusty pollen onto the stigma. Do this a couple of times each time you walk past your vine, and you should be laden with fruit by midto late summer. Notice your passionfruit flowers and unopened buds are getting nibbled on? It’s snails. Bait only works at ground level, so go out at night with a torch and pick snails off by hand.
DIY seaweed fertiliser for seedlings
Stuff a barrel with seaweed, cover with water, and leave for a few weeks. When ready, dilute to the colour of weak tea and apply. I find a seaweed tonic a great help in preventing transplant shock. It does get smelly, so if your garden is too small to site the barrel well away from the house, use a bought seaweed tonic such as Yates Thrive Natural Seaweed Tonic instead!
Plant tomatoes. Grow cucurbits.
Go for potatoes.