Garden tips for October
Gardening in October is entirely dependent on the weather. If there’s an Indian Summer, there is no better time of year to be out in the garden. While gardeners in warm areas will have more to do, there are plenty of garden tasks to keep everyone busy in October.
FLOWERS AND PLANTS
Collect seeds from summer-flowering plants for planting next year.
Plant wallflowers, forget-me-not, Bellis, Primula, Viola, winter pansies and other spring bedding plants in prepared ground or pots.
Sow your sweet pea seeds now, to ensure larger, more robust and earlier flowering plants next spring.
It is also good time to plant new herbaceous perennials, as the soil is still warm, but has more moisture than in the summer.
Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs.
Cut back faded herbaceous perennials and add to compost heap.
Lift and divide poor flowering or overcrowded herbaceous plants.
Wait for the first frosts to hit dahlias and cannas before lifting the tubers or rhizomes.
October is an ideal time for moving and planting trees, shrubs and climbers, as well as for hedge planting.
Climbing roses should be pruned now if not done last month.
Tall flowering shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring such as Buddleia, Cornus and Lavatera can be cut back by half now, to prevent damage and to tidy their appearance.
IN THE GREENHOUSE
Sweet peas can be sown early, in the glasshouse, for next spring.
Remove any shading paint applied earlier in the season, in order to maximise reducing light levels late in the season.
Check that the greenhouse heater is still working.
Ventilate greenhouses and conservatories during the remaining warmer days, but reduce ventilation once cooler, gusty autumn weather sets in.
Damping down becomes unnecessary as the month progresses. It is best to water or damp down the floor earlier in the day, so that the greenhouse is dry by evening.
WILDLIFE AND PONDS
Top up bird feeders and put out food on the ground and bird tables. All feeds, including peanuts, are safe, as the breeding season is now over.
Continue to place nets over small ponds to prevent autumn leaves falling in.
Remove tender water plants and any dying foliage from your pond. Place the plants in trays of deep mud or damp sand, or even in a bucket of water, keeping them in a frost-free place until the risk of frost has passed.
Remove pumps or fountains and removable lighting systems, clean them, and store over winter in a safe place.
IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
Peas and beans that have gone over can be cut down to ground level, and their roots left in the soil to be dug over – they then break down and return vital nitrogen to the earth.
Plant shallots, onion sets and garlic now for the best sized bulbs next year.
Cut down the dying tops of perennial vegetables.
Cover any productive salad plants with cloches to protect from the frosts.
Early-maturing varieties of peas can be sown outside now – cover the seedlings to protect them from birds.
Make sure Brussels sprouts are firm in the ground. Earthing up a few inches around the stems and treading in or staking will keep them secure.
Remove yellowing leaves from brassicas to prevent the spread of disease and dispose of them
IN THE FRUIT GARDEN
As soon as you’ve finished picking this year’s blackberries, the old fruited canes can be pruned out to make space for next year’s to develop. Cut back all the stems that have produced blackberries this year to ground level and tie in new growth. Leave autumn fruiting raspberries until later in the winter.
Move citrus trees indoors to a frost-free position.
LOOKING AFTER YOUR LAWN
In many colder areas, this month is the last opportunity to scarify, aerate and top dress lawns. Scarification removes layers of thatch and can be done with either a spring-tine rake or a powered scarifier.
Afterwards apply an autumn lawn feed; these are low in nitrogen, so discouraging lush green growth that would only succumb to cold and diseases over the winter months.
To assist walking over lawns plagued with worm casts or muddy areas, consider laying paths or stepping-stones across main routes of access.
It is too late to apply a weed killer now – effectiveness will be much reduced. A final mow will keep weeds in hand until the spring, when weed killers can again be used.