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Gardening with Jack: October Plantings


October is my favourite month of the year. It starts warm, but towards the end of the month the nights become distinctly cooler and the days are pleasantly sunny without pinning you to the ground. We might even experience the first morning mist of the season. We’ll be turning the air conditioning off and paying BPL less money. And the kids are at school. Lovely!

Cooler weather allows us to do much more in the garden. In the first two weeks of October we can plant tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, snap beans, chard, spinach, cucumbers, squash and the like. Once the nights have cooled we can plant lettuce, greens, garden peas and just about anything – excepting bulbing onions and, maybe, eggplant.

Scallions can be started now but large bulbing onions only plump up in response to lengthening days, after the winter solstice in December. Make sure your onion seeds are short day or day neutral. If you use long day onion seeds they will merely produce oversize scallions. Eggplants are warm weather producers. Seeds sown at this time of year often produce healthy plants but no fruits. You will get more success by planting eggplants in January or February.

If you planted tomato seeds in mid-August they should be at the flowering stage by the end of October. Tomatoes only set fruit when the nighttime temperature is lower than 70 degrees. Fruit set in late October will give you ripe tomatoes by the end of November or early December.

Long before you pick your first tomatoes you should have the next generation under way. Depending on the size of your family, sow tomato seeds every month until Easter is over. A small family needs only two or three vines planted each month while a large family might need half a dozen.

Early October is the ideal time to sow cabbage, broccoli, kale and kohlrabi seeds. Cauliflower is best left until November. These are all gross feeders and enjoy regular applications of 6-6-6 fertilizer. Always transplant your seedlings into soil that has been enriched with compost and then add fertilizer. Digging fertilizer into the ground often burns the plant roots so apply it to the surface of the soil and work it in an inch or so with a trowel.

The end of October is the time to establish your salad garden with sowings of greens and lettuce. The end of October is also the time to plant garden and snow peas.

Snap (string) beans are reliable producers and can be started now. They come in bush and pole form, so check your package carefully before buying. Bush beans usually grow to two feet and tend to have a shorter life span than pole beans. If you are really into snap beans you should grow pole beans and support the vines with some kind of trellis. You can make a tepee frame out of four 8-feet long poles and plant about 12 seeds under and around the frame. Pole beans take longer to produce a harvest than bush beans but have a longer bearing period.

Squash and cucumbers should be grown in ‘hills’. A hill is a specially prepared area that has been enriched with plenty of compost. Plant three well-spaced seeds in each 18-inch diameter hill and water the area every day until seedlings appear. The slight rise of the hill allows for good drainage. Apply 6-6-6 fertilizer once the seedlings are established. You can grow cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash in the same area as they will not cross-pollinate.

Carrots should be seeded directly into the soil. If you have deep soil you can grow Imperator type, the largest of the carrots. If your soil is heavy, try Danvers which has broad shoulders and a conical shape. Light soil and medium depth calls for Nantes or Chantenay types that are relatively narrow and have sweeter flesh. Avoid planting carrots in soil that is rich in compost as this tends to cause side roots.


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