Our October Gardening Guide is here, with all you need to know about what to do in your garden this time of year, depending on which climate zone you’re in.
October Gardening Guide: Mediterranean Climate
Perennial herbs are making their spring comeback: mint, sage and thyme are all taking off. Broad beans are up to shoulder height and it’s time to start picking the beans (some of them, as always, were meant be green manure but didn’t get dug in in time!).
Lettuces, parsley and beets are starting to go to seed – the dilemma being how much to clear to make room for the next crop and how much to leave for attracting beneficial insects and then saving your own seeds? I’m thinking 80/20 at this stage as the ground is warming up and I’m keen to get my solanums in.
The few snow pea plants that didn’t get nibbled off as babies in autumn have grown prodigiously, scrambling over broad beans, up fences and into neighbouring hedges, and are now covered in delicious, crunchy pods every day.
Getting past the bees and stretching up to pick them is the only challenge. I think they are the best value vegetable out there, where under $4 worth of seeds planted in two minutes and then ignored all winter can give you at least $4 a day worth of veggies through much of spring.
Bees have been very excited about the floral explosion of the last month. Feeding, breeding, buzzing all over the place. Time to expand their accommodation and extract some honey over the long weekend.
Meanwhile, the irrigation system is due for an overhaul after several reconfigurations of garden beds, a few tree migrations and the odd garden fork through the pipes… oops!
Sometimes Zone 4 may stretch to your neighbour’s garden. Such is the case for us this month, where lots of recent tree propagation means that mum’s irrigation system next door also needs an upgrade.
Our seedling trolley needs to visit and help carry the load. This is a very big trolley (think mobile propagation bench) made with steel mesh shelves, so that tree seedlings are kept up off the ground, well ventilated, less vulnerable to bugs, and easier to water. Its high frame also allows the plants to be covered easily with shadecloth when needed. So really it’s a Zone 1-2 kind of contraption but it enjoys travel.
October Gardening Guide: Tropical Climate
October is a beautiful month for working in the garden. Also the time to make a spread with riberries harvested over the last couple of months.
If you’d like to make a dead-easy tomato sauce: roughly chop tomatoes and put them into a hot pan to cook with the lid on until soft. If there are excess eggplant/aubergines or onions that need to be used, add them as well.
When they are really soft blend them using a stick blender. Then push it all through a sieve. Put the sauce back on the stove to cook a little more till thicker. The mash left in the sieve goes to the poultry or the worms. They all enjoy it. Bottle the sauce in small containers and freeze till needed for the next soup or stew.
Some of the salads are finishing and going to seed. Now is the time to plant rocket, mustard, tatsoi and Miners lettuce seeds at regular intervals to keep the crops coming. These will all grow during the build-up to the wet season.
Miners lettuce is still in experimental stage for us. Darwin lettuce is another option that does well at this time of the year. The French Sorrel is still growing well.
Harvest your carrots and radish. The Daikon radish is very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Jackfruit, Jaboticaba and mulberries are the stars this month in the orchard. Keep filling holes for any future plantings with any scraps from kitchen, animal harvesting, weeding and lawn mowing.
Clear any overgrowth or overhanging plants along the fence line. This makes for good neighbours and reduces the fire hazard. Mulch will smoulder rather then burst into flames.
Cut back the sweet leaf to ground level so that fresh growth is generated for salads. Cutting back to ground level encourages a bushier growth habit and so a thicker privacy screen.
It is time to weed, mulch and prune to keep it looking good and safe for the postie and pedestrians.
October Gardening Guide: Warm Temperate Climate
Summer is greedily eating into Spring. Now is the best time to tackle indoor projects such as mosaic flooring using up old tiles from the recycle centre, sewing up aprons and oven mitts for friends as gifts and enjoying parties in the cool evening around the pizza oven on any remaining days that there isn’t a total fire ban.
Now is a great time to buy some kangkong from the Asian grocer and pop it into the small ponds that are dotted about. The vegetable seedlings are bolting in the heat. Let them go to seed and bend over as the seed stalks dry out to ensure that the seeds fall back into the garden beds, or pick them off when ready and move them to another bed.
If there are too many weeds in a garden bed simply protect the perennial plants with bricks and sticks then leave the door open, feed the chickens in there in the morning and let them weed it out.
The silk worms are a great education tools for children and if we were hungry we could eat them too.
The neighbour’s grass clippings are used to burn off any weeds when they are piled high to make rich hot compost beds. The rare fruits are starting to blossom so keep an eye out for newly maturing trees.
I love it each year when I find a new fruit and get to taste it for the first time, although I don’t always know when to pick it. My first experience with the Jackfruit was a stinky sticky mess but this time, it was wonderful, rich and sweet. The challenge in keeping rare fruits is to make sure you find good growers to help share and nurture that variety.
The Choko vine has picked up again and along with the sweet potato they are a great source of cooking greens.
The bananas are again fruiting and the excess leaves can be used to mulch the garden before they shrivel and die back in the hot sun. Be careful not to cut back the grape at this time because the leaves serve to protect the fruit from shriveling in the heat.
The animals get special care in heatwaves by shading their enclosures and making natural cooling systems.
Any weeds that are slashed to allow a bit more light to the rejuvenating saplings, or to clear the paths are piled high in the middle of the firebreak. The firebreak has soft, bouncy moist soil and this is rich in herbs such as stinging nettle (another great spring green for cooking and teas).
The house is readied for fire by setting up a sprinkler system and putting metal sheets or flywire across gaps under the house.
The native animals are getting noisy as they fight for a mate. Sometimes orphaned animals have to be nurtured but this still gives us some entertainment and pride.