It’s time to harvest spinach, sow your beans and plant tomatoes. Here are all your garden tasks to complete this October
Spinach: As the weather warms, spinach, rocket and other leafy greens can bolt (turn to seed and stop producing leaves). To avoid this keep picking as much as possible, even the young flower stems which are edible and very tasty. If you have space, leave some plants to flower and drop seed which will often germinate and produce new plants. These can then be moved to a shadier spot for summer.
Beetroot: Harvest your beetroot as the tops start to swell and before the plants turn woody.
Silverbeet: When harvesting silverbeet avoid taking off too many leaves at once as this will slow down the plant’s growth. Smaller silverbeet leaves are much tastier than the older ones which can be a little bitter.
Celery: Celery will be maturing in warmer areas. A rough indication of maturity is when stalks are about 12-15cm long up to the leaves. Pick just the outer stalks or the whole plant.
It’s always fun to experiment with sowing different veges if you have the time. Kings Seeds, Koanga Gardens and many others stock seeds for a terrific range of heirloom and interesting varieties that are not sold as seedlings in garden centres. Beware: browsing their online catalogues can be dangerous!
Beans are such an easy-to-grow and versatile vege with a huge range, from dwarf French and butter beans to climbing runner beans, plus plenty of unusual types such as the Asian winged bean or the purple pole bean. If soil temperatures are around 15°C in your area, now is a good time to sow summer-cropping beans into the garden in a warm, sheltered spot with good drainage. Sow into containers if you live in a cooler area or are short on space. Sow seed at regular intervals throughout spring and summer to give you a steady supply.
Sow radishes now before the soil and weather get too warm for this root vege (or choose a shadier spot if you do sow later). Sow every 7-10 days for a continuous harvest and water regularly.
Sturdy tomato seedlings with plenty of leaves and ideally their first flowers can go into the garden now if temperatures are warming in your area and frosts aren’t likely. Removing laterals (side shoots that grow at an angle between the main stem and a branch) from vine tomatoes as they grow means the plant will put energy into fruiting, not foliage. It will also improve airflow (meaning less pests) as well as the taste and size of the fruit. Pinch them out with your fingers to reduce the chance of spreading disease from secateurs.
You can also plant out seedlings of other warm-weather veges such as eggplants, courgettes, cucumbers, chillies and capsicum in frost-free places. Find the warmest, most sheltered spot for these heat lovers to thrive.
Root vegetables such as main crop potatoes, kūmara and Jerusalem artichokes can be planted in warmer areas. Remember to mound soil up around potato plants as they grow; this will increase their yield significantly.
Tip: Don’t bin your coffee grounds – throw them in the compost. As well as being a great non-toxic fertiliser they’ll deter pests too, either used in a spray solution or sprinkled around plants to repel slugs and snails. The smell can even discourage moggies from using the garden as a toilet.