Your garden: October 29

To add a little bite to salads, use nasturtium leaves and flowers. Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Vegetables

It can be difficult to plan for next autumn and winter when it does not feel as if this year’s winter has been completely shaken off. Yet from now until late next month is the best time for growing plants that will mature in autumn and be used in the following months.

Savoy cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, silverbeet, parsnips, leeks, salsify and swedes can be sown for autumn and winter use.

Asparagus beds should be starting to bear mature shoots now. Cut them carefully or the young buds just below the surface will be destroyed. Do not allow any of the shoots to grow a top or the plant will be finished for the season.

Runner beans can still be sown. Put them 15cm apart in double rows, with 20cm between rows. When the beans come through, stake them with straight poles strong enough to withstand the weight of crops in a gale.

Silverbeet grows best in soil enriched with regular watering of liquid manure. That promotes quick, robust growth and produces a broad mid-rib, which can also be used for cooking.

Sweet corn can usually be safely sown in early November. The plant is sensitive to cold winds, late frosts and cold, wet soils. Warm temperatures are necessary for rapid, productive growth. Dress the soil with plenty of organic material. To form cobs, the plants must cross-pollinate, so place seeds in double rows or groups of five or six, 15cm apart in each direction.

Zucchini, vegetable marrows, squash and pumpkins can be sown outside now.

All vegetable crops can be improved by regular, light cultivation of the soil around them. It improves aeration and controls the weeds before they reach seed-shedding maturity.

Flowers

Nasturtiums are good annuals to grow in garden spots where dryness makes it hard for many other plants to survive. Sow the seeds in pairs, 30cm apart and thin to one when they sprout. Nasturtiums are great for window boxes and hanging baskets.

Dimorphotheca, Eschscholtzia (Californian poppy), Linum, Portulaca and annual chrysanthemums are good plants to grow in poor, sunbaked soil.

Gaillardia, Verbascum, marguerite daisy, Arctotis, Gazania, scented winterflowering Iris unguicularis (formerly I. stylosa) and Crassula croccinea (a succulent) are perennials to try in dry, sunny spots, while Crocosmia can usually be relied on to provide flowers in season from the poorest soils.

Lilium regale is one of the most popular lilies. It is easily raised from spring-sown seed and, in good conditions, bulbs will form and produce flowers in two years. Sow in seed-raising mix that has been saturated with water. Cover the seeds with 1cm of mix. Germination may be erratic. During the first season, seedlings seem to direct all their energies into bulb production. In the second season, upward growth is more rapid but seldom exceeds 30cm. A few small flowers may be produced if conditions have been favourable.

Fruit

Tomatoes can be sown under a cloche, then thinned to two or even one plant in each. Dwarf varieties needing no pruning are recommended. Taller varieties planted out next month will not need cloche protection.

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