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Gardening Tips for October Print E-mail
Alice Spenser-Higgs   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008
Gardening Tips for OctoberCome October, and summer is well under way, with the occasional cold snap still making an appearance. There’s lots to be done in the garden, tending vegetables, herbs, lawns and flowerbeds. Harmonious Living will be bringing you monthly gardening tips to help you plan your gardening activities.

Nothing like home-grown veggies
Sow summer vegetables like carrots, beetroot, beans, cucumbers, marrows, pumpkin, radishes, summer cabbage, swiss chard, and rocket directly into prepared beds.

Tomatoes, eggfruit, chilli peppers, sweet peppers and lettuce are better sown in seed trays. Also look out for baby vegetables (carrots, cabbage, eggfruit, tomatoes) that are fun to grow, especially in pots.

If you like fresh chilli peppers this is also the time to sow them. Easily available seed varieties are jalapeno, long red cayenne, serrano, tabasco, and baby pepper as well as sweet green, red and yellow peppers.

When growing vegetables from seed follow the planting depth recommended on the seed packet and keep the soil moist during germination. When sowing in beds you can put a light layer of straw over the bed to prevent it from drying out.

Herbs for yourself and your pets
Sow the annual herbs like sweet basil, coriander and dill. Pick herbs regularly to keep them in shape. Plant herbs for your pets like dog grass, catnip (nepeta cataria) and borage (tonic). Feed your herbs twice a month with a liquid fertiliser at half the strength.

Mint – all kinds – makes a refreshing herbal tea or can be added to cold water or fruit juices.

Tending your lawns
In very hot weather let your lawn grow a little longer. It shades the roots and doesn’t require as much water.

Don’t chase hadidas away – they are your best pest controller, feasting especially on Parktown prawns and caterpillars.

If new growth has a yellowish tinge, then your grass is lacking in nutrients. Feed it with 5:1:5 or an organic alternative and water in well after fertilising.

A feast of flowers
Easy flowers to sow from seed are alyssum, asters, celosia, cosmos, lobelia marigolds, nasturtiums, portulaca salvia, sunflowers, and zinnias. Use scatter packs for a colourful, cottage garden mix.

Plant out Impatiens. To keep them free of disease keep the following tips in mind:
  • Space plants at least 20cm apart.
  • Don’t over-water.
  • Feed with a balanced fertiliser. Stay away from nitrogen rich fertilisers as these produces soft, sappy growth that is susceptible to disease.
  • Adjust irrigation systems according to the weather.
  • A preventative fungicide spraying program during wet and cool climatic conditions will prevent many problems in the garden.

Other summer seedlings that can be planted out are aquilegia, begonia, bedding dahlias, coleus, dianthus, gazanias, petunia, salvia, verbena and vinca.

Continue to transplant and plant perennials and ornamental grasses.  

Fertilise summer-flowering shrubs like Hydrangeas, Hibiscus and Fuchsias with 3:1:5. 5:1:5 or Ludwig’s Vigorosa.

Continue watering and feeding your spring flowering bulbs until they die down naturally. Then lift and store them for next season. And don’t forget to water your summer bulbs that are just coming up.

The darling rosebuds of October
October is rose month when the roses are looking at their very best and it is such a pleasure to pick a rose or two for the house.
When picking, just make sure that you never pick more than 50 percent of roses off a bush. Picking too many roses reduces the number of leaves too drastically and sets the rose back.

Don’t worry about aphids on the roses. They don’t do them any harm and aphids are delicious food for lady birds and birds, especially the yellow weaver birds. You can also wash off the aphids with a strong jet of water.

In the heat water well at least twice a week and to build up flowers for the next flush feed the roses with an organic or semi-organic food like Vigorosa.

Watch out for red spider in hot and dry conditions. Wet the underside of leaves regularly or spray with an organic insecticide like Ludwig’s Insect Spray.

Trees and shrubs, hedges and climbers
Prune back spring flowering shrubs, including azaleas, and trees when their flowers have faded. Fertilise camellias and azaleas after flowering with 5:1:5 fertiliser or its organic equivalent.

Container plants
Water outdoor container plants once a day. If potting up summer containers, use new potting soil – all the nutrients will have leached out of the old and plants will not do as well.

Indoor pot plants and hanging baskets now need regular feeding and watering.

Dealing with pests
Watch your vegetables every day and spray immediately if you see insect infestations or damage. Use organic insecticides but bear in mind that organic sprays must be applied regularly and more often than chemical ones and preventative spraying is best.

Discourage snails and slugs by using crushed eggshells, coffee grounds or macadamia nutshells around the plant. You can also put out a saucer of beer and they will drown in the beer or your can use an environmentally safe snail repellent like Ferramol.

If beetles are eating your roses the best bet is to pick them off by hand and drop them in boiling water.

Alice Spenser-Higgs is a freelance journalist and garden writer.
For more information on gardening and plants in South Africa, visit

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