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October already and the nights are drawing in! How did the summer pass so quickly? Again this year the weather has not been easy for us gardeners! Autumn though can be an incredible time, with superb autumn colour from our trees and shrubs, heavy dews on our lawns and night frosts as the first signs of winter.
Time then to reflect on our successes and failures and make our plans for next year!
So, to October in the garden – preparing for winter and getting inspired for the coming spring!
Let’s look at the tasks that await us!
Mowings with the cutter blade at its highest setting can be made throughout this month.
Cooler weather arrives and light intensity slows down grass growth. It’s time to put the lawn to bed in a condition to produce a revitalised sward for next spring.
However, now for the hard bit!
‘Scarification’ is required - removing dead grass and other detritus, which involves vigorous treatment with a ‘spring-tine’ rake. It’s a job best done ‘a bit at a time’, but it’s great exercise!
Aeration – our lawns will have become compacted so aeration is an important task.
Again, don’t attempt to do it all at once, but use a garden fork to spike the surface several inches apart. For larger areas you can hire a machine to make life easier.
Oversowing – there may still be time for re-sowing early in the month after the above treatment. Sow bare patches where the surface has been roughened, sprinkling seed over the area to replace fine-leaved species which may have perished this summer. It will rejuvenate your lawn next year!
Clear away fading annuals from hanging baskets, pots and tubs.
Spent compost can be used on your compost heap if its free from pests and diseases.
Wash and store containers for the winter or consider replanting hanging baskets with late winter/spring flowering pansies or violas to add some colour and perhaps plant spring bulb displays for containers.
There’s still time to plant autumn bulbs such as tulips, narcissi, hyacinths etc.
There’s good value in garden centre sales but ensure bulbs have not gone soft with signs of fungal infection.
Did you make sowings of forget-me-nots and wallflowers in late summer for your spring garden? If not, you can buy plants from a garden centre. They look superb in spring combined with bulb displays and the scent of the wallflower blooms is delicious!
Lift tubers and corms of dahlias, begonias and gladioli etc. before the harsh autumn frosts. Make sure they are dry and store in glasshouse, garage etc. for use next year.
Continue to lift, divide and re-plant older herbaceous perennials that have become crowded. It will improve flowering performance – and give you more plants for other areas!
Cut down fading flowering shoots and foliage in readiness for the winter.
Plant perennial plants such as salvias, lavenders and heuchera.
Make sweet pea sowings for sturdy overwintered plants for early summer flowering – there are always enticing new varieties in the seed catalogues.
October is the time for ‘harvest festivals’ and it’s a busy time in the garden to collect all the storable produce.
Cut off tomatoes and peppers at ground level and hang them upside down in the greenhouse or garage.
Pick off ripening tomato fruit and store in a dry position, using fruit as it ripens.
A ripe banana placed in the vicinity will speed ripening. Alternatively use for making chutney or the green ones for pesto.
Late-maturing sweet corn cobs can be frozen for later use and winter squashes stored in a dry shed or garage.
Harvest any pumpkins and squashes now and store inside as the frost will turn them mushy!
As the weather allows, make sowings of broad beans like ‘Aquadulce’ and early pea varieties for early summer cropping next year. You can also be planting garlic and onion sets.
Keep a close eye on your winter cabbage, brussels sprouts and other brassicas for signs of pests and diseases.
Fold a leaf over the developing heads of autumn cauliflowers to protect the ‘curds’ from frosts.
Cut back the foliage of asparagus to just above ground level.
Rhubarb which is not cropping well? Chances are it has become overcrowded so it’s time to lift and split into the individual plants.
Apply the old-fashioned but effective method of ‘winter wash’ (available at garden centres) to the trunks and branches of fruit trees to safely rid yourself of overwintering pests.
Cut back and tie in raspberry canes that have fruited this last summer to increase cropping next year.
As the weather cools yet the soil remains warm, plant ‘bare root’ plants of top fruit (apples, pears etc.) and soft fruit like raspberries, blackcurrants etc. lifted straight from the nursery. The advantage of bare root? Plants are a lot cheaper than those grown in containers!
It’s time for planting new additions to the garden such as ‘bare root’ plants. These are far cheaper than container-grown plants and are good too for planting new hedges.
Prune back shrub roses by a third to reduce damage from ‘wind rock’
Give hedges their final trim before the winter.
Got a favourite shrub and would like another? Now’s the time to take hardword cuttings to root over the winter.