Your garden: October 16

Lilac gets its name from the most common flower colour.
Photo: Gillian Vine

Raising plants from seed is cost-effective and gives greater choices than buying plants from garden centres.

Planting is usually done at twice the depth of the seed, but during dry weather it should be a little deeper.

Watering the rows thoroughly before sowing will help germination and then, when seedlings appear, gentle watering will get plants growing steadily.

Intercropping — using an area for more than one crop — is a good way of making the maximum use of a small space. Lettuces may be grown along a line intended for outdoor tomatoes, which usually are planted between Labour Day and the middle of November. Lettuces are cut before the tomato foliage is big enough to bother them.

Parsley can provide a successional crop if sown in small amounts. Choose an open situation in soil that does not dry out. Add organic manures if these are lacking.

Potato plants can be banked up with soil before the leaves develop too much. Once that happens, building banks is difficult without damaging the plants.

Early peas or potatoes may be intercropped with any of the brassicas used for winter greens. Between the rows of late dwarf peas or beans, sow spinach, turnips and radish.

Radish is a quick-maturing plant that can tolerate some shade in the summer. Keep all plants clear of weeds.

Peas making good growth can be helped with staked netting or wired brush placed by the rows for the plants to climb up. Cauliflower, cabbage and lettuce plants in the garden will benefit from regular waterings of liquid manure. If the soil is a clay type, a side dressing of sulphate of ammonia or urea (50g for 10 plants) will be helpful. Do not let the fertiliser touch the leaves or stems, but fork lightly into the soil.

Parsnips, which have a long growing season, need to be sown now. Shorter rooted varieties, such as Avon resister, should be chosen for shallow or clay soils.


Berry fruits — red, white and black currants, raspberries and related fruits — will benefit from mulching with garden compost or rotted stable manure to feed the growing crop and help retain spring moisture in the soil.

Liquid manure applied to soft-fruit plants during the active growing season will bring immediate results. Plum, peach, nectarine and apricot trees carrying heavy crops may need to have some of the young fruit thinned to let the remainder develop more and reduce the strain on branches.

Cape gooseberry is an annual in districts where frosts are severe but, if planted in a sheltered position, it may survive several years. Put young plants 50cm to 70cm apart in rich soil, once the ground is warm. The fruit ripens in autumn and early winter.


Marigolds, zinnias, asters and cosmos sown under cover in August will be ready for planting in the open. However, if the garden is exposed to southwest winds and late frosts, leave the plants in boxes and harden by exposing them to daytime weather, but shelter at night.

Lilac bushes will finish flowering soon and can be pruned to improve their shape.

Violas and pansies raised in cutting beds last autumn can be planted out. Well worked, liberally manured soil will ensure fine blooms and a long display.

Polyanthus and primroses can be kept in a cool, shaded place, if they are removed from beds for summer annuals.

Water well and make the soil firm when planting. Polyanthus seeds can be sown for planting out next autumn. Biennial and perennial seeds, such as Russell lupins, aquilegia, pyrethrum, penstemon, scabious, viola, sweet william and hollyhock, can also be sown.


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