Vege patch to-do list

Robert Guy­ton’s guide to plant­ing and sow­ing in har­mony with the lu­nar cy­cle.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

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.

Col­lect sea­weed.

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