By GEOFF MIERS
October is one of the best months of the year to garden and it is really your last chance to pot away in comfort before it starts to really heat up.
The amount of planting that can happen now is literally endless. Vegetables, flowering annuals, herbs, fruit trees, native and exotic species and container gardens can all be planted now with great success as they love the warmer soils.
Planting now will quickly see plants establishing new root systems and generating new foliage growth as they prepare themselves for the summer months ahead. Critical to successful planting however revolves around several key factors.
Prior to planting it may be necessary to make some improvement to the soil. The real secret to success is working the soil and providing the ideal soil conditions to best suit the plants that you are introducing to your garden.
This may involve nothing more than placing a fertiliser tablet in the planting hole 5cm below the bottom of where the plant will sit. This little bit of food for the plant will make the world of difference to the plants growth over the next twelve months.
Generally however a little more effort than this will shower you with success. If soil conditions are poor other treatments maybe be required. This could range from adding gypsum to improve the soils structure, adding organic matter to stimulatein the soil or adding a wetting agent to improve the soils capacity to hold moisture.
The type of plant or planting being undertaken will dictate how much work is required prior to planting.
Major plantings in the vegetable, herb and flowering annual garden should be undertaken over the next three weeks. It’s now an optimum time to plant capsicums, chilli, cucumbers, egg plants, marrow, rock and water melons, pumpkins, squash, sweetcorn and zucchini.
Most people prefer to plant seedlings as you have the immediate impact and can sit back and be satisfied with your effort. That’s okay however with seedling transplants sometimes a little extra effort is required to provide some protection to lessen the impact of transplant shock.
Seed grown plants when they emerge from the soil seem to quickly adapt to the climatic conditions with no shock factor setting the plants backwards. Care maybe required to protect them from slugs, snails and slaters.
Crops of beetroot, carrots, celery, cress, dwarf and climbing beans, okra, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, radish, shallots, silver beet, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet potatoes and tomatoes will all thrive if planted now.
In the flower garden a large range of flowers can be planted this month. Marigolds are always great in the vegetable garden, petunias will give a quick sustained blaze of colour, gazanias flower on the hottest days, seaside daisies flower for months on end and suit most gardens, portulaca suit the dry rockery, sunflowers bring the ring neck parrots and zinnias bloom in full summer.
If planting out vegetables or flowering annuals fertilise the soil prior to planting. If using an organic fertiliser like Grow Better or Blood and Bone you can simply dig it in and plant.
It is always better to prepare the ground a few of weeks in advance if using fresh animal manures, however little harm will occur if using commercial organic fertilise as recommended. Generally you can prepare the soil and plant immediately.
Fresh manures be they chicken, cow, camel, etc are another matter, you will need to water the soil and allow the manures to break down prior to planting over several weeks.
Planting of citrus and fruit trees and strawberries now will thrive provided the plants are nurtured over the next month. All require some extra attention to provide ideal growing conditions. Central to this is the need to be particular about the plants’ watering needs. Adequately watered they will all quickly settle and grow.
With any planting out now mulching becomes increasingly important particularly as temperatures increase.
Organic mulches will moderate soil temperature variations, limit water loss due to evaporation, limit weed growth, promote necessary micro-organic activity and in the longer term provide much needed organic material needed for conditioning our soils.
Pea straw is I believe the most suitable organic mulch to use for the vegetable, herb and flower garden as it provides immediate benefits, breaks down relatively quickly and returns nutrients back into the soil.
Critical to all planting now is establishing a regular watering regime to meet the plants needs. Watering may be required daily for the 2-3 weeks or until new roots venture out into the surrounding soil and the plant is better able to withstand any hiccups.
Failure to meet the plant water needs can result in expensive plant losses or retardation of the plants growth. The later the planting is undertaken the greater the importance needs to be placed on watering.
Chatting to Peter Yates (pictured) the other day he explained how he puts a great deal of effort into conditioning his soil particularly for his vegetable and herb gardens. These beds are organically rich, nutrient rich and are all helped by placing worm farms in each bed that can be moved around as required.
Secondly Peter extensively mulches his beds with pea straw to help the soil retain its moisture. Over his entire food producing garden Peter has erected frames that support 50% white shade cloth softening the impact of our sometimes-extreme climatic conditions.
With the high organic content of his soil, the mulch and the light shade Peter waters his vegetable gardens for only 10 minutes a day and I can guarantee you his garden does not look dry.