What to do in the garden in OCTOBER
September may have had its share of warmer days, but the cold weather really begins to set in during October. The changing leaf colour makes this a beautiful time of year, and there’s plenty to do in the garden, so here’s a guide to the key gardening jobs in October.
Trees and shrubs
There is likely to be more pruning to be done in October, and it’s important to prune back climbing and rambling roses as soon as they have finished flowering. Don’t forget to tie them back once the pruning is done, to protect them from the autumn winds.
Fallen rose leaves should be gathered up as they can lead to unpleasant diseases like black spot if they are left on the ground, and it’s also a good idea to clear overhanging plants away from pathways, and give evergreen hedges one last trim for the winter.
Perennials, biennials and annuals
With the colder weather approaching, it’s important to protect half-hardy plants by taking them into your greenhouse. You can also lift dahlia tubers in order to store them over the winter, remembering to clear away dead foliage first.
Borders are likely to need some attention, so cut back any perennial plants and take the opportunity while the soil is still warm to divide any herbaceous perennials that look a bit overcrowded. Applying a mulch to your borders will also work as insulation for plant roots over the winter and will help to control weed growth.
Although the summer is long gone, there is plenty of planting to be done in October, starting with daffodils and tulips. If you have any perennials or biennials that you’ve not yet planted out, now is a good time to do so, along with spring bedding plants such as primulas or winter pansies. Summer containers can be restocked with winter bedding plants, and there is still time to plant clematis and sow your hardy annuals before the first frosts.
Vegetables and fruit
There is still harvesting to be done in October, including squashes and pumpkins. When picking cabbages, make sure that you leave the root of the plant in the ground and cut across the stem to encourage a growth of new leaves, and if you have green peppers or tomatoes, you can ripen them by hanging the plants upside down indoors.
With the colder weather on the way, winter preparation should also be high on your agenda in October. Autumn cauliflower heads can be protected from frost by wrapping them in the plant’s outer leaves and securing them with string, and citrus trees should be moved indoors.
You should also be taking precautions against parasites and insects by wrapping glue bands around apple tree trunks to trap winter moth females and prevent them from laying caterpillars. A winter wash applied to the branches and trunks of fruit trees will also help to get rid of pests, and now is the time to remove any nets you have around fruit cages and let the birds take care of any insects that may be lingering there.
Bean trenches for spring sowing should be prepared in October and filled with manure and you can still grow salad crops well into winter under glass or polytunnel. If your rhubarb is looking overcrowded, dig up, divide and replant the healthy looking plants, and if you are planning to plant any fruit trees, now is a good time.
October is a good month for laying new turf, as the forthcoming rain should make sure that it settles properly. For existing lawns, it’s important to keep the grass clear of fallen leaves to allow light to get to it, and before giving your lawn one last light trim for the winter, you can finish any essential maintenance such as cutting edges, raking thatch and aerating.
Other bits and bobs
Your greenhouse should be fairly empty, so October gives you the chance to clean it out and disinfect it. Any tender plants that might be vulnerable to frost should be put inside, and this is a good time to check out our greenhouse heater and make sure it is working.
If you haven’t already set up your compost bins, this should be done in October, and you can also collect up leaves for turning into leaf mould, which will be a useful soil conditioner. Spent compost from your containers can also be recycled and used as mulch, and twigs, branches and pruning debris can be gathered to make a bonfire.
It’s a good idea at this time of year to net your pond to prevent leaves from falling into them, and if you have a build up of pond weed to deal with, a useful tip is to leave the pond weed next to the pond for a day or so, which allows any wildlife caught up in it to return to the water.
If your soil is still dry, you can carry out one more good watering before the frost arrives and you can help protect young plants from the cold by building a cold frame to store them in over the winter and raising plant pots off the ground with bricks to prevent water logging.
By this time you may have a plentiful supply of onions, garlic and potatoes stored away, but it’s important to check them regularly and throw out any bulbs or tubers that show signs of disease, and don’t forget to put up bird feeders before the cold weather sets in.
October is a good month to review the year and to make plans for the spring. It can also be useful to take photos of the locations of herbaceous plants so that you don’t damage their roots later on during the winter dig.
Make sketches or diagrams of how you’d like your garden to be laid out over the next year, and start ordering your fruit bushes, fruit trees, and perennials as they can be planted at any time before the spring.