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Week 1: October Gardening

October is the 'springiest' month of all. New leaves have fully opened but are still the softest of green, flowers are showing off in the bush and in gardens, and roses are producing their best massed displays of the season. Enjoy!

Flowers to sow in October – Californian poppies Californian poppies, with their papery blooms and finely-cut foliage, look delicate but are surprisingly hardy. Yates Sunshine Mix blooms in a cheery blend of warm shades, while Milk Maid, with its cream-coloured flowers, creates a much softer effect.

Vegies to sow in October - Cucurbits and climbing beans Cucurbits is the funny-sounding name given to members of the melon family, which includes courgettes, watermelon, cucumbers and pumpkins. Cucurbit seeds can be sown now into well-drained mounds of rich soil. Some cucurbits – such as rockmelons – require a very long growing season so aren't suitable for cooler areas.

Climbing beans (pictured) take up very little space because they can be sown to grow up a sunny fence or trellis. Yates Scarlet Runner is renowned for its brightly coloured flowers that are followed by large, superbly-flavoured pods. Start seeds now and you'll be picking beans for months.

Feed in October - Roses This is the most important month for rose feeding. All roses are making rapid new growth and producing masses of flowers. At this stage it's critical to support the plants by feeding with a specifically-formulated rose food such as Thrive.

Prune - Lavenders Lavenders need frequent light clippings to keep them in good shape. The best way to do this is to continually pick the flowers. Never cut back into hard, old wood – it won't re-shoot. Sprinkle a light dressing of Yates Dolomite Lime around the bases of lavender plants – they'll love it.

Pest watch in October Aphids love to attack young and tender shoots. They cluster thickly on plant tips where they suck sap, often producing copious amounts of sticky honeydew. Treat heavy aphid infestations with low toxic Yates Nature's Way Pyrethrum. It only has a one day withholding period so can even be used to treat aphid problems on fast-growing vegies like asparagus.

Use Blitzem or Baysol to control snails and slugs on spring flowers and vegetables.

October job file – Iris care After bearded irises have finished blooming, cut off flower stems. Then look critically at the plants and decide whether the clumps should be broken up. If they're very crowded they'll need dividing, so lift them out of the ground, split them into sections and move some pieces into fresh soil. Make sure that the top of the fleshy iris root is exposed to the sun.

Week 2: Time to get corny

Sweet corn isn't the ideal vegetable to grow in the average-sized garden, because corn plants produce a relatively meagre harvest for the space they require. Sweet corn's not one of those plants you can ignore, either: it needs to be well looked after. If corn's neglected, the cobs end up pitifully small and lacking in flavour.

Why, then, do so many home gardeners grow sweet corn? Because, like tomatoes, shop- bought corn never tastes as good as corn grown in your own garden. The reason? Home-grown corn can be picked, cooked and eaten straight away while the sugars are still abundant in the cobs.

Why grow corn from seed? Young corn plants don't like being transplanted, so it's far better to start them where the plants are to grow. Fortunately, sweet corn seeds are comfortably big enough to handle

Before sowing, choose a sunny spot that's protected from the wind. Build up the soil with some good rich organic matter (such as your own compost) and some complete plant food. Thrive All Purpose or Dynamic Lifter pellets are both suitable.

Why plant corn in blocks? In order to develop their seeds, corn cobs must be fertilised by pollen from the male tassel. The pollen has to find its way to the fine hairs (called silks) at the end of the cob. The problem is, the tassels develop at the top of the plants, a long way from the cobs at the sides. Planting corn in blocks maximises the opportunities for pollen to land on the silks.

Why plant two seeds in the one hole? Some corn seeds, especially the new, supersweet types, can be temperamental when it comes to germination, so maximize your chances of success by sowing two seeds in each hole. If both plants emerge, remove the weaker of the two.

Why mulch? As corn stalks start to grow, mulch around the base with some straw, shredded paper or lucerne hay. This helps hold moisture in the soil and supports the base of each plant.

What corn varieties can I grow? Yates has three sweet corn varieties in its seed range. They are:

Early Chief – the traditional favourite. Honeysweet – one of the newer, sweeter varieties. Sun 'n' Snow – bi-coloured yellow and white kernels look attractive and have superb flavour.

Corn problems? The pest that causes the most trouble for sweet corn is called corn earworm, a small caterpillar that hides inside the husk where it eats – and spoils - the kernels. Protect cobs by dusting with Yates Derris Dust just as the cobs start to form.

Apart from checking for this pest, good feeding and watering are the most important requirements for keeping the corn patch in good health.

Week 3: The pests of spring

Plants take off in spring and so do the pests that love to feast on them. Here are some solutions to common problems that affect favourite garden plants in spring and summer.

Roses Because aphids love to suck sap from sweet new rose shoots, aphid populations really explode at this time of year. Squash aphids between thumb and forefinger, provide long- term protection with low toxic systemic Confidor, or take the no-toxic option and spray with Yates Nature's Way Insect Spray.

Azaleas Azaleas aren't usually affected by pests at the beginning of the growing season. The problems become more evident later in the year as pest numbers build up. Thrips are some of the worst. These tiny sap suckers gather in protected parts beneath the leaves where they proceed to suck the juices from each leaf. Affected leaves gradually lose their colour and are permanently damaged, so it's best to start protecting new growth in spring before it's spoilt. Confidor is the most effective solution. Confidor's very long-lasting once it's established within the plant, so it only needs to be applied every few weeks. And, once Confidor's in the plant, it won't affect other friendly insects such as bees or hoverflies.

All sap-sucking insect pests hate wet conditions, so they're easily discouraged by spraying water through the leaves.

Citrus Scale insects, aphids and leafminers all cause problems for citrus. Yates Target will control scale insects in their early stages. Later in the season try spraying over the scale with a horticultural oil or physically remove scale insects by gently scrubbing with a brush that's been dipped in some soft soap (not detergent).

Trees and shrubs Leafrollers love to attack the new leaves on deciduous plants such as Japanese maples (pictured). These caterpillars use silken threads to tie leaves together into clumps. Then, from within this protection, the caterpillars proceed to eat the leaves. Like all caterpillars, they eat more as they grow.

It's best to clip off affected leafroller clumps as soon as they appear. Leafrollers may also attack fruit trees like pipfruit and avocadoes. Naturally-derived Success can be used to control these pests in the home orchard.

Vegetables Whitefly is a tiny, moth-like, sapsucking insect that attacks many vegetables, causing mottling and distortion on the leaves. You know when white flies are about because clouds of them rise up whenever they're disturbed.

Confidor provides systemic control of whitefly on tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes, or use Yates Nature's Way Insect Spray. Apply this beneath the leaves because that's where most of the whitefly will be hiding.

Week 4: Grow your own salad leaves

Summer is salad season, so get sowing now and you'll have heaps of luscious leaves to pick during the warm weather.

Ready-mixed Start with Yates Mesclun Mix. This packet contains seeds of a number of favourite varieties, including endive, rocket, chicory and a range of colourful lettuces. Sow seeds into a well-prepared garden bed or a pot filled with top quality potting mix (such as Yates Thrive Premium). All leafy plants appreciate regular feeding with nitrogen-rich Thrive Soluble. Fertilise once a fortnight, or mix at half the recommended strength and feed every week (the favourite old gardeners' term is 'feed weakly, weekly').

Summer lettuce As the weather warms up it becomes increasingly difficult to keep lettuce growing happily. Lettuce plants are easily stressed by heat and tend to rush to seed in hot weather. Choose lettuce varieties that are clearly marked as suitable for summer growing. The non- hearting varieties (such as Cos) are usually the easiest, but if you want a traditional hearting lettuce then choose Yates Great Lakes.

Baby beetroot leaves Beetroot leaves are found in all those pricey salad mixes but it's very easy to grow your own. If you've never tried growing beetroot from seed you'll find that soaking the seed for a few hours before you start will help speed up germination. Or, easier still, sow Yates Baby Beet seed tapes, which are guaranteed to produce success. Seed tapes are the cleverest things. The seeds come sandwiched between two strips of soft paper, and germinating them is a simple matter of laying the tape along the bottom of a one-centimetre-deep groove, covering it with soil and watering well.

Begin harvesting beetroot leaves as soon as they're a few centimetres long. By this stage they'll be showing some red in the main stem and their colour will give a lift to all those salad greens.

Rocket The peppery flavour of rocket brings a special piquancy to salad mixes and, again, it only takes a few leaves to add that rocket zest. Sow a sprinkling of Yates Organic Rocket seeds every couple of weeks. Move them along rapidly with lashings of Thrive soluble plant food and never let the leaves get too old before harvesting.

Green tips Tender tips plucked from fast-growing plants can also be used to add variety to a salad mix. For example, harvest the green tips of snow peas to toss into a salad bowl. Some adventurous gardeners even pinch the new shoots from their choko plants and swear that they taste as good as fresh asparagus.

Balcony life If you garden in a small area, you'll be looking for salad varieties that don't take up much room, which is why Yates has put together its special balcony packet seed range. One of these, Balcony Instant Salad, holds three inner packets of spring onion, lettuce and radish that have been specially chosen because they're the right size for containers in a courtyard or on a balcony.