October jobs and tips for your garden

 

Although we had some warmer days over September, the autumn is now definitely here for real, and it feels colder. It's a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the lawn, but just think of all the lovely leaf mould you can make! It's also time to start preparing for early frosts.

 

General:

• Move tender plants, including aquatic ones, into a greenhouse or conservatory.

 

• Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on the garden.

 

• Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and dead plant material.

 

• Collect leaves up for making leaf mould as a soil conditioner. Oak, Alder and Hornbeam will rot down in a

year but beech, sycamore, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut will take a couple of years to compost.

 

• Sweep up debris and fallen leaves that harbour overwintering fungal spores and hiding places for slugs and

snails.

 

• Start preparing a bonfire with twigs and prunings - cover them with plastic so they remain dry for better

burning later. (Make sure you check for hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire)

 

• Clean out water butts and let the autumn rains refill them. Install a new water butt ready for next year.

 

• If the soil is dry, give your garden one last good watering before the ground freezes.

 

• Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservative before the winter arrives.

 

• Build a cold frame to protect young plants from extreme winter weather.

 

• Check stored onions and garlic and remove any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually

the first area to rot. Try using onion bags to improve air flow.

 

• Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use Hessian sacks to store your potatoes as this

will allow the crop to breathe.

 

• Make time to give evergreen hedges a final trim before the bad weather sets in, so they look neat and tidy

for the winter.

 

• Once plants are dormant, it is a good time to lift and relocate any plant that you want to move.

 

• Raise pots off the ground for the winter by using bricks or 'pot feet', to prevent waterlogging.

 

• Invest in bird baths and bird feeders this autumn. Birds are gardeners friends and will keep pest numbers

down.

 

Lawn Care:

• Clear up fallen leaves regularly to allow light to the grass.

 

• A last mowing can be made this month before leaving your lawn for the winter.

 

• Finish off essential lawn maintenance to avoid waterlogging and compaction over winter. Try aerating your

lawn with a garden fork, raking thatch from the surface and repairing dead patches.

 

• Fresh turf can still be laid now. Autumn rains should ensure the turf settles successfully.

 

• Renovate old lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf.

 

Flowers and Bulbs:

• Divide herbaceous perennials.

 

• Cut back perennials that have died down.

 

• Prune climbing roses.

 

• Finish collecting seeds from the garden to sow next year.

 

• Now that colder weather is approaching, protect half-hardy plants with fleece or bring into a frost-free

greenhouse.

 

• Lift Dahlia tubers, Begonia tubers and Gladiolus corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove the

dead foliage before storing them. Dahlias want to be stored once the foliage has gone black from the first

frosts. The hollow stems can be cut down to approximately 10cm (4″) above the tuber. Any water should be

allowed to drain by standing the tuber upside down and store under frost-free conditions.

 

• Plant daffodil bulbs, tulip bulbs and Allium bulbs for a glorious spring display. Dot them through borders or

naturalise them in grass. Click here for more information on planting spring bulbs.

 

• Plant bare root ornamental trees and shrubs.

 

• Plant out any perennials or biennials you've grown from seed this year.

 

• Plant spring bedding such as wallflowers, Bellis, Primulas and winter pansies for a fantastic spring display.

 

• If your summer containers are looking past their best, re-plant them with fresh winter bedding plants. For

winter plant ideas take a look at our 'How to plant up hanging baskets, flower pouches and containers' article.

 

• Autumn is the ideal time to plant Clematis plants.

 

• There is still time to direct sow hardy annuals.

 

• This month is an ideal time to move trees and shrubs, and plant hedges.

 

• Hardwood cuttings can be taken now from deciduous shrubs.

 

• Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once they've finished flowering and tie in the stems before autumn

winds cause damage.

 

• Clear up fallen rose leaves to prevent diseases such as black spot from over-wintering - don't compost the

leaves.

 

• Clear overhanging plants away from pathways to maintain access routes throughout the garden.

 

• Cut back perennial plants that have died down or alternatively leave the dead foliage in place for over- wintering wildlife.

 

• Lift and divide any overcrowded herbaceous perennials whilst the soil is still warm.

 

• After tidying borders, mulch with bark chips, well-rotted manure, leaf mould or spent mushroom compost to

insulate plant roots for the winter and keep weed growth in check.

 

• Sow sweet peas in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to overwinter planting outdoors in March or April to

produce early blooms.

 

• In the heated greenhouse sow cyclamen seeds.

 

• For colourful displays indoors during Christmas and New Year plant containers with prepared hyacinth bulbs

early in the month, and towards the middle of the month plant narcissus.

 

• Plant up winter hanging baskets and containers using myosotis, pansy, polyanthus, primrose, dwarf

wallflowers and spring flowering bulbs.

 

• Plantings of bulbs that are to give displays in the spring can be continued especially for hyacinths, crocus

bulbs and daffodils.

 

Vegetables:

• Plant out spring cabbages.

 

• Plant garlic bulbs using a suitable variety such as Solent Wight, Onions Early Crop and Swift can be planted

during October and November.

 

• In sheltered areas make sowings of Broad Bean such as the Aquadulce Claudia towards the end of the

month.

 

• Lift and store root crops such as carrots, beetroot and potatoes.

 

• Cut down asparagus to near ground level.

 

• Finish harvesting beans and peas. When beans and peas finish cropping simply cut the plant away at

ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. These crops fix nitrogen which is slowly released into the soil as

the roots break down.

 

• If you plan to grow beans next year, start preparing the site by digging trenches and filling with manure or

kitchen waste.

 

• Harvest squashes and pumpkins before the first frosts. They will quickly turn mushy if left outside!

 

• When you harvest your cabbages, leave the root in the ground and make a cut across the stem to

encourage a flush of smaller leaves.

 

• Any plants with green tomatoes or peppers remaining can be hung upside down indoors to ripen.

 

• Protect autumn cauliflower heads from frost by wrapping the outer leaves around them and securing with

string. Alternatively use a cloche or fleece.

 

• Continue to plant autumn garlic bulbs now for a bumper crop next summer.

 

• Plant autumn onion sets for cropping next summer.

 

• Now is an ideal time to invest in mushroom kits.

 

• Cut back yellowing asparagus foliage to within 5cm of the ground.

 

• Reuse old grow bags by cutting away the top and sowing late salad crops. Cropping can be extended into

winter if grown under glass, cloches or polytunnels.

 

Fruit:

• Divide established rhubarb crowns to create new plants.

 

• Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts.

 

• If you haven't done so already, cut back the fruited canes of your summer fruiting raspberries, leaving the

new green canes for next year's crop. Tie in next year's raspberry canes to support wires or fencing.

 

• Move citrus trees indoors to a bright, frost free position (4-12°C) away from cold draughts and radiators.

Reduce watering in winter but do not let the plant dry out completely.

 

• Now is the perfect time to order strawberry runners and plant up a strawberry patch for cropping next year.

 

• Clear the straw from around the base of strawberry plants to increase ventilation. Shear back old foliage to

encourage fresh new growth.

 

• Divide congested clumps of rhubarb by digging up and splitting into several pieces with a spade. Re-plant

the healthiest looking pieces.

 

• When planting blueberry plants make sure you have an acid soil or alternatively grow them in pots of

ericaceous compost.

 

• Autumn is an ideal time to plant many varieties of fruit trees.

 

• To test when apples are ripe gently lift them in the palm of your hand or give them a gentle pull - they should

come away easily.

 

• Remove any diseased fruits from branches or the ground as they may spread infections to next year's

crops.

 

• Wrap glue bands around the trunks of apple trees to trap winter moth females whose caterpillars shred

spring flowers.

 

• Remove the netting from fruit cages to allow birds to catch and eat any pests that are lurking there.

 

• Apply a winter wash to the trunks and branches of fruit trees to kill off overwintering pests.

 

• October’s usually a great month for preparing the ground for planting soft fruit. Select a well-drained, sunny

position that is not prone to late frosts. Dig over the area incorporating well-rotted farm-yard manure or

garden compost removing all perennial weed roots.

 

• Erect supports for cane fruits such as raspberries.

 

• As the berries of late fruiting varieties of blackberries ripen they should be picked, and to keep the birds off

the canes a netting should be used as protection. The canes can then be cut back to soil level and this year’s

new canes should be tied in.

 

Greenhouse:

• If at all possible any tender perennials, such as fuchsias, which are in containers should be moved into a

frost-free greenhouse for the winter so as to give protection from low temperatures that can occur at night in

some parts of the country.

 

• Also at this time, similar types of plants that have been grown in borders should be very carefully lifted,

potted up and placed where they will be protected from the cold.

 

• Remember to trim back any leggy or tall top growth that may have been left as this will avoid any damage

being caused.

 

• If your greenhouse is fairly empty, now is a good time to clean and disinfect it. This allows more light in and

prevents pests and diseases over-wintering.

 

• If you haven't done so already, remove any greenhouse shading to allow as much light in as possible.

 

• Move tender plants into the greenhouse to protect them from early frosts. Make sure that there is enough

space between them to keep them well ventilated and reduce the risk of disease.

 

• Check any plants which you are bringing inside for pests such as aphids.

 

• Continue to remove any fallen or dead plant material to keep the growing area free of fungal diseases.

 

• Set up your greenhouse heater in case of early frosts.

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