Things to do in the garden in October

Parsnips and carrots under strict control

This October plant potatoes, peas and carrots and there’s time for one last sowing of broccoli before the onslaught of white butterfly. In the flower garden plant annuals to fill in any gaps.

Words Jane Bellerby

Getting your parsnips and carrots in a row
There are plenty of spring greens to munch on and it’s time for planting and sowing of the more hardy crops over the next few weeks. The soil is probably still not warm enough for the likes of heat-loving melons and peppers, but main root crops such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips can all be started if you haven’t done so already.

We grow parsnips and carrots side by side as they require similar conditions and are harvested over the winter months. Both these crops require a well dug, fertile soil and need plenty of attention while they establish. Weeding is ongoing for the first few weeks until the leaves shadow the ground, and thinning is another important step so they can all reach a good size. We thin our carrots about three times and each time use the thinnings in salads so there is minimal wastage, plus if the horses are nearby they look pleadingly over the fence, knowing that tasty goodies are likely to come their way.


Parsnips can be tricky when it comes to germination and there are all sorts of things that can help them along such as pouring hot water along the row when first planted and keeping a board over the row to maintain moisture. This needs to be monitored daily and the board removed the instant there is germination, otherwise the parsnips are a long, leggy and spindly-looking lot that tend to shrivel up.

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Then it’s about maintaining weed control, moisture and waiting for the yumminess to grow.

Plenty of food ticking along here; potatoes, broccoli, parsnips, carrots, onions, rhubarb and sorrel

• Plant out all the hardier and long-growing vegetables as you can according to the warmth of your region: main crop potatoes, carrots, beetroot, onions, lettuce, peas and lots of salad greens such as loose-leaved lettuces are all good candidates.
• Another sowing of broccoli will make it before the advent of white butterfly and diamond-backed moths. Protect all brassicas with regular sprays of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) which you can find in garden stores.
• New herbs planted now will establish well as the season progresses. There’s parsley (Italian and curly), sage, rosemary, thyme, rocket, marjoram, dill and chives. Herbs pack such a punch of goodness and nutrition that incorporating them into our daily diet is an excellent idea.
• Herbs spread around the garden, both food and flower, will increase the diversity of your patch too. Crushing a few sprigs between your fingers and tossing them around the garden will help deter pests – I gather the smell disrupts their navigation to your prize lettuces, carrots, etc.
• Keep preparing soil for crops still to go in such as pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, chillies, beans, aubergines, corn, kumara and zucchini.

A trug holding our spring gatherings

• Enjoy the brilliance, colour and beauty of your garden, and everyone else’s as well.
• As the soil warms, apply mulch to conserve moisture and suppress weeds, and as it breaks down it will supply food for your soil.
• Stake plants and give support against heavy wind and rain.
• Keep vigilant, as always, against the munchings of slugs and snails.
• Plant out annuals to fill in any gaps – it’s hard to go past the intensity of blue cornflowers.
• Mark spring bulbs as they die down and replenish themselves for next year.
• Take heaps of photos so next winter you can decide what needs moving.
• Start picking flowers for the house and to share with friends. With an abundance of flowers being produced, the plants will soon send up more blooms.
• Plant out new plants which may have hopped into your trolley at the plant shop. Buying when something is in flower means you know exactly what you are getting.


NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.
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