October: It’s time to…

October is all about having time to smell the roses and going forward create bright bold summer colour. Take time to visit the country’s best rose gardens – they’re breathtakingly beautiful and a source of inspiration and relaxation.


Lilac kangaroo paws are making a particularly beautiful show at present. Plant in groups of 7 with companions such as lilac roses ‘Bonnie Babes’, sea lavender, native hibiscus, Emu bush, wallflowers (Erysimum mutabile). I like one called ‘Landscape Lilac’ bred by Angus Stewart (pictured in my garden).


I know its early but I’m thinking Christmas. Plan your Christmas party colour scheme and plant to suit. My colour scheme will be blue, lilac and white this year – to go with all those hydrangea, agapanthus, frangipani and gardenia. I’m filling every bare spot or gap with a splash of colour.

Under trees? If you can’t find anything to grow under big trees, put in some bromeliads, masses of clivia or epiphytic orchids such as Cruxifix. Because they obtain their nutrition from the air, rain and leaf litter, they won’t worry about root competition.

Stuff a hanging basket with flower and foliage. Water often, especially if the wind is blowing. Fertilise regularly too.

herbsMake garden Christmas gifts now; perhaps a pot of herbs, grown from seed; a wreathe made of succulents or a terrariums filled with ancient ferns.


South Australia has the best rose gardens in Australia. Visit internationally acclaimed rose gardens such as the Adelaide Botanic Garden, AlRu Farm and The Heritage.

Watch out

The scourge of tomato growers, fruit fly, are about. Lure and trap them now. If you can get your neighbours to do the same you will double protection of your summer tomato bounty. Ceratrap or Eco-lure will do the trick.


Spring-flowering shrubs with arching canes, such as weigela, philadelphus and deutzia should be allowed to develop their natural form so don’t give them a short back and sides prune. Instead remove canes three years and older at ground level. This allows the new soft arching canes some room.


Summer stunners such as zinnia, cleome and sunflowers can be sown directly into warm garden soil or pots.

Lawn Care

Fill any bare spots, lawn gaps or dips with top-dressing and feed evenly with granular fertiliser. A light aeration will help compacted lawns get the drink they so desperately need.

Last Chance

Plant gorgeous reliable Lilium bulbs for Christmas colour. They’ll come back every year.

In the Veggie Patch

Seaweed all new vegetable seedlings fortnightly so they can gain cell strength and disease resistance.

Pumpkins and Sweet potato can be grown vertically over fences and trellis to save on space while still providing a plentiful harvest for next winter. And no they don’t need stockings to hold themselves up – that’s a myth.

Give your fruiting plants a dose of ‘tea’

Brew a batch of comfrey liquid ‘tea’ for fertilising crops such as tomatoes, strawberries, eggplant, capsicum, and passionfruit. Half-fill a bucket with fresh comfrey leaves. Place a brick on top to weigh leaves down, then fill the bucket to the brim with water. Top with a lid and let steep. After three weeks the leaves will have broken down. Strain, add to water 1:2 and use when tomato flowers start to bloom. Place old leaves on compost. This ‘tea’ gives fruiting vegetables the potassium kick they need for better-tasting and bigger fruit. Apply fortnightly.

Quick List

Clean out the fireplace ash and spread it around rose gardens and vegetable patch.

Prune back wisteria as soon as it finishes flowering.

Wipe down indoor plant leaves with a mix of water and milk – they’ll gleam!

Apply complete fertiliser and a dose of iron chelates to gardenias, stephanotis and Brazilian jasmine to green up leaves. Pick off the worst yellow leaves.

Plant cucumbers, pumpkins, rockmelon, spinach, sweet corn, tomato, watermelon and zucchini. Try tropical yams, choko, okra, snake beans, squash and sweet potato.

Plant delphinium, petunias, marigolds and nasturtium.

Watch for unsightly sooty mould and scale. They feed off each other.

Bag or bait fruit trees to protect against fruit fly attack.

Lay a new lawn.