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October 2010 – Sue McDougall

Beautiful October weather means we can spend it in the garden and enjoy it. Being outside and soaking up the Vitamin D is rejuvenating, but remember to slip, slop and slap.  Getting sunburnt isn’t so rejuvenating. It’s often my lower back that receives a little too much sun at this time of the year because I am spending too much time bending over weeding. These are the weeds that have suddenly shot up and gone to seed right before my very eyes in the warm weather that we have had.

I would guess that weeding is the number one most hated job on the gardening calendar. I would even go so far as to say it’s the reason that people blame for hating gardening. There are a few things to do to stop the weeds.  Number one is not to let allow them to set seed and number two is smother them with a thick layer of chunky mulch. Mulches will stop the light getting to the seed bed and stop the summer weeds germinating.

Jobs to Do

Apply a much to all areas of the garden this month. A thick quality mulch will conserve soil moisture and plants need as much moisture as possible with the drier than average winter and September that we have had.

Feed the spring flowering bulbs after they have finished flowering with a complete bulb fertiliser. After flowering these plants tend to be forgotten about but they are busy developing the embryo for next years flowering before they go dormant. Sprinkle around the surface of the soil and water in well.

Those warm climate plants are just starting to shoot away and may still be looking a little yellow from the cold weather Throw some complete all purpose fertiliser around and water in well. This will give these plants a kick start into growing in spring. Don’t forget to add a wetting agent and a thick layer of mulch, making sure the mulch stays away from the trunk.

After flowering, the lavenders will also benefit from a trim. This is usually in late spring. Some grey foliage plants tend to get woody and need regenerating.  Grey foliage plants can be pruned back hard if it is done in stages. Some tend to drop dead if trimmed back very hard so the secret is to select about a third of the main branches and trim these back hard. Let them shoot away and after a few weeks trim back the next lot of branches and then follow with the last lot of branches in the same process. This will allow the plant to recover over a period of time.

The new watering regulations introduced by the state government only allow for the use of reticulation (except if the home has a water bore) one day a week for the next few months although hand watering is allowed any day.  To assist, apply a wetting agent around every single part of the garden to help water soak into the soil.  Apply mulch after the wetting agent to ensure this water will soak into the soil.  I am often asked what is the best type of mulch to use and the key is that it contains enough coarse particles to let the water past to the soil where it is needed and reduce the evaporation rate. Many fine mulches absorb this water and will not let it get to where it is needed. This defeats the purpose of mulch in the first place.

Plant Now

Flowers suitable for planting in October include ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, aster, begonia, cockscomb, coleus, cosmos dahlia, dianthus, geranium, gerbera, gloxinia, impatiens, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, portulaca, phlox, salvia, snapdragon, statice, verbena, vinca, zinnia

Vegetables suitable for planting in October include artichoke, beans (climbing and dwarf), basil, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chilli, Chinese cabbage, Chinese broccoli, choko, cucumber eggplant, leeks, lettuce, onions, onions spring, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, rhubarb, rock melon, silverbeet, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini

Citrus trees are so popular but with gardens getting smaller the thought of a large tree is very off putting for many. ‘Lots A Lemons’ is a great Meyer lemon cultivar that has abundant fruit while growing in a container. Select a large glazed or terracotta pot at least 50cm across and make sure it is stable so that it is not prone to blowing over when the tree gets larger. Quality premium potting mix will ensure the tree will thrive. Fertilise with a citrus controlled release fertiliser at the beginning of every season and apply a soluble blood and bone or fish-based fertiliser every two to three weeks and before you know it there will be ‘lots of lemons’.

A standout plant in full flower in October is the Californian Lilac. Brilliant royal blue flowers cover the plant so the foliage can’t be seen. Ceanothus Blue Pacific is a large grower and can be used for a fast growing screening shrub in all sorts of soil types. Trim back after flowering to encourage new growth and a bushy plant.


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