Conkers
Julie Parker
My interest in gardening & wildlife stemmed from childhood days spent working in the garden with my parents & reading books on anything from robins to giraffes. As time has moved on these influences have stayed with me inspiring the creation my own garden & leading to interests in fish keeping & the natural world around me. I still love to read & hope that the knowledge I gain will make topical reading through these articles.

What to do in the garden during October

The unsettled weather we have had recently is likely to continue into October with heavy rain and strong winds moving across the country from the southwest. The southern and eastern parts may see some drier and brighter periods as the month continues, with the risk of overnight fog but the north & west will continue to see more in the way of rain and strong winds at times. Temperatures are likely to be close to average but with any bright weather comes the cooler nights & possible risk of frost. So watch out for your tender plants & get them indoors if there is a risk of overnight frost if you are lucky enough to be having a settled spell.

You can start planting bulbs now, although tulip bulbs are best planted in November, or maybe do some tidying around the garden - cutting hedges, splitting perennials & making space to plant bulbs later in the month. Hanging baskets & containers are also starting to look a little jaded & will need to be replanted before the first frosts, especially if you are overwintering tender plants such as fuchsia's or begonia tubers. These over wintering container displays are going to have to last a good six months so it is worth spending some time & effort in the planning. It is also a good excuse to pop into the garden centre to see what new bulbs & plants are available that will brighten up your patio or garden for such a long period - why not try something different this year such as a tiered grouping of containers with a different type of bulb in each one? Mix in with some berrying or evergreen perennials for structure & extra interest.

We have a range of inspirational articles to give you some ideas for early planting including Tempting Tulips, advice on which seeds to sow in autumn & tips on Growing Spring Bulbs, so get planting for next year!

Planting & Sowing

Hyacinths

  • Plant up prepared hyacinths for Christmas.
  • If your summer bedding is looking past its best it is time to remove it from borders & tubs and replace it with winter bedding & bulbs or perhaps a new shrub or tree.
  • Plant strawberry plants or well rooted strawberry runners into pots or prepared soil.
  • October is the ideal month for planting and is nature's preferred planting time. By planting in October shrubs, trees and perennials can become firmly rooted before winter, giving them an advantage over those planted in spring. It is also the ideal time to choose a new tree or shrub to bring autumn colour to your garden.
  • It is time to start planting your bulbs. Get the whole family involved and make it a special event, don't forget to plant up lots of tubs to display near doorways and on the patio. Plant any excess bulbs in plastic pots which can then be used to fill any gaps that appear in your spring border.
  • Plant heathers. Plant them two centimetres deeper than the plants are supplied in their pots. This prevents them from being tugged by strong winds, which can interfere with the roots becoming established. Planting deeper also prevents the sun from shining on the roots.
  • Plant biennials now for flowering displays next year - wallflowers, stocks & sweet rocket will provide fragrant displays.
  • Sow sweet peas for overwintering under glass.
  • Sow salads for the winter in the greenhouse.
  • October is also a good time for establishing new hedges, planting fruit trees and bushes and laying new lawns.
  • Plant garlic, onion sets for an autumn planting & spring cabbage.
  • Move and plant conifers and other evergreens plus hardy trees & shrubs.
  • In mild areas sow overwintering broad beans, finish planting onion sets and plant garlic.
  • Take hardwood cuttings from roses, Cotinus and blackberries, among others.

Maintenance

Mandevilla

  • Clear out & clean the greenhouse to get it ready for over-wintering tender perennials.
  • Protect large less hardy plants with fleece such as Gunnera & palms that will have to remain outside over winter. Move tender plants such as canna & young olive & citrus trees into the greenhouse, conservatory or cool spare room.
  • Pick any remaining crops before they are spoilt by frosts including apples, pears, pumpkins, squashes and marrows.
  • On a dry day, cut stems with attractive seed heads to dry & use for indoor displays, try Eryngium, Achillea, poppies & ornamental grasses.
  • Dahlias, tuberous begonias, Gladioli, Ixias, etc. are too tender to leave in the garden & will rot over winter so now is the time to dig them up. Wait until the foliage on the dahlias has been blackening then lift the tubers. Cut stems about 15cm (6") above the bulb or tuber and leave the stumps to dry out in a dry, well-ventilated spot. Once the soil is dry, brush off & trim the stems again to 10cm (4") & store the bulbs or tubers in a box and cover with sawdust or dry peat substitute to the base of the stems. Leave over-winter in a cool, dark, well-ventilated, frost-free spot away from any vermin.
  • Rake up leaves and store them in old compost bags or in a compost bin to rot down to leaf mould.
  • Lift late crops of turnips, potatoes, beetroot and carrots and store in a dry frost-free place until needed.
  • Dig over heavy soil and leave for the frosts to do the hard work of breaking it up.
  • Keep rhododendrons & camellias well watered as they are now forming next year’s flower buds.
  • Cut back and dispose of any growth affected by powdery mildew, whatever the plant.
  • Divide and replant perennials as they die back. This is the best time for splitting asters.
  • Lift and divide rhubarb crowns.
  • Apply barrier grease to fruit trees to protect them from winter moth.
  • Spray nectarines & peach trees, just before the leaves fall, against peach leaf curl using copper fungicide.
  • Complete your autumn lawn restorations of scarifying, aerating, topdressing and feeding.

Pruning

Blackberries

  • Prune blackberries as they finish fruiting.
  • Prune climbers such as Virginia creeper to keep them under control, especially if they are obscuring windows or getting into guttering. Wisteria can be pruned back to within 45cm of the shoots & Pyracantha can have non-berrying shoots trimmed back to the visible berry trusses or spurs.
  • Cut back marginal plants in ponds and yellowing leaves on water lilies.
  • Prune large shrubs such as Lavatera & Buddleja plus climbing roses & rose bushes in exposed areas to minimize damage from windrock.
  • A number of trees can bleed heavily if pruned in the spring because the sap flows are particularly strong then. It is therefore better to prune varieties such as birches, maples and walnut now if necessary.
  • Cut back browned asparagus foliage and compost.