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Climbing Beans

October: your gardening to-do list

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October is a funny old month. In many climate zones, it feels like October has said goodbye to spring but hasn't quite embraced summer. Not to worry, No matter where you garden, JUSTIN RUSSELL says it's time to get cracking. Check out his tips for what you can plant this month. 

By October, my southern Queensland garden has entered a kind of mid-season twilight zone that Jerry Coleby-Williams named Crematoria. It’s such a clever description for the period time between spring and summer, when cool gives way to warm but the wet season has yet to start. The weather during Crematoria is generally dry, hot, and often exceptionally windy, with gusts blowing straight out of the north west with more velocity than a hair drier. Bushfires are common, dust storms are possible, and inevitably, plants wither before my eyes.  

I’m guessing you’ve got your own version of Crematoria in your neck of the woods. Those of you who garden in the southern Australia and Tasmania are probably more than happy to see some sunny weather, which will help the soil dry out enough for planting to begin. In central Australia it’s starting to get blisteringly hot. In the tropics, it’s always hot, and Crematoria is more like Mango Madness. Wherever you live, it’s time to seize the day. Don’t hold off. Get some plants in the ground, be nimble in your approach to the weather and adapt as necessary.  

In cold temperate climates and the frostiest parts of the warm temperate, arid and semi-arid zones, October is a major planting month. Bear in mind what I said in the previous paragraph, wait until your final frost date has passed and then go for broke! Plant potatoes, tomatoes, bush and climbing beans, zucchinis, capsicum, chillies, basil, eggplants, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons, and corn. If your soil remains cool, start the seeds in a warm greenhouse or use a heat pad to provide bottom warmth.  

You can also sow “shoulder season” crops – those that produce a quick return between seasons. Try lettuce, radish, turnip, Asian greens, mustard, chicory, endive, rocket, silverbeet, and chard. Grow them fast in rich soil with plenty of water. Don’t forget that there’s still time to plant slightly slower growers such as bush peas, carrots, beetroot, leeks, spring onions, broccoli and cabbage. 

In the subtropics and tropics try capsicum and chillies, peanuts, corn, okra, cardamom, melons, eggplant, summer squash, Madagascar beans, Malabar spinach, kangkong and starch staples such as yams, arrowroot, cassava, taro and sweet potato.  

As for fruit, plant citrus, mango, avocado, tamarillo and pawpaw trees now in warmer areas, ensuring you prepare the soil with plenty of rotted manure and compost. In all but the coldest and hottest climates you can get in mulberries, figs, persimmons, feijoas, and pomegranates. Try berries, stonefruit, grapes, nut trees and pome fruit in cooler areas.