October Gardening Advice

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The clocks go back later this month, as we wave goodbye to what has been a scorching summer. Now’s the time to enjoy the autumnal colours. From vibrant leaves, to ripe pumpkins, these are precious moments to savour.

And as the wildlife begins storing supplies to sustain them through the colder months, we should do the same. Keep harvesting, and if you can’t eat it, store it. You’ll appreciate it on a cold day when homemade soup is calling.

In the flower garden

BEDDING PLANTS

It’s fair to say that summer bedding plants have had their moment in the sun. However, we can still enjoy colour in our gardens, so think about polyanthus, pansies and primroses.

HARDY ANNUALS

If you’re looking ahead to next spring, then now’s the time to sow hardy annuals. Cosmos, marigolds or cornflowers can either be sown directly into the soil or into seed trays with sieved seed compost.

Place in water-filled tubs, and let the trays soak the water up, as watering overhead will disrupt the soil, and spoil the seed. Place carefully in a warmed greenhouse, and keep an eye on them throughout winter. You can also sow sweet peas in pots, and let them grow on in the greenhouse.

TENDER PLANTS

It’s been a great summer for sun-loving plants. But as the nights draw in, and temperatures begin to drop, this is the time to bring in your tender plants and give them some winter protection. Cannas are not made for colder weather, so find a spot in your greenhouse or shed, where it’s light and frost-free.

Cut away dead flowers or leaves to help prevent rot. For further protection, you may want to consider wrapping them in fleece. Over the colder months, check plants regularly.

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BULBS

Finally, you can think about planting your tulip, daffodil and allium bulbs. Whether they’re going into pots, containers or the ground, the golden rule is plant them to the depth of three times their height. Ensure the soil is well drained, as sitting in water over winter will increase their chances of rotting, so consider adding grit for drainage.

There is so much you can do with bulbs, whether planting in clumps, individually or among other varieties. If you’re planting in pots, you may want to think about using the ‘lasagne’ method. This is when you take different flower types and layer them one above the other. For example, first to flower would be snowdrops, so they would sit at the top of your ‘lasagne’. The next layer would be crocuses, and so on, until finally, tulips. It’s a great way to get the most from one pot or container, giving you continuous colour throughout the spring.

LIFTING BULBS

If you haven’t done so yet, then now’s the time to lift both dahlia and gladioli bulbs. Once lifted, foliage should be cut back to several cms above the tuber, turned upside down and left to drain for a few days. Once dried, these can be placed somewhere cool, dark and frost free.

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FALLEN LEAVES

As the leaves begin to fall, it’s important you keep on top of them and rake them clear from your lawn. Any build-up can harbour pests, stop light getting to your lawn, and create a ‘browning off’ effect. It’s especially important to keep paths and patios leaf-free as with a layer of frost, it can be easy to slip and hurt yourself.

If you’re not placing them on a compost heap, think about creating a wired pen. Leaves make for a great leaf mould, so by leaving them to rot down for six to twelve months, you’ll have free leaf mould which is great for mulching plants. If space is an issue, use bin liners which can be tucked away in small spaces. Make sure you create several small holes in the bags, however, or your leaves will quickly become a bag of badly-smelling slush.

PERENNIALS

By now, they may be looking shabby, but these plants can still offer benefits for winter wildlife. If you’re not going to leave them for the winter, cut the plants back to the base. If they’re summer flowering perennials, this is the time to divide and re-plant, to increase next year’s summer blooms. For protection against dropping temperatures, ensure you mulch around the plant. Don’t cover them over, or touch the stems, as this will encourage rot.

On the veg patch

FRUIT

This will be the final opportunity to harvest the last of your tree fruit, such as apples and pears. What isn’t going to be used straight away, can be stored. Ideally use slatted shelves or boxes, and place the fruit carefully on them. Check that each fruit is not bruised or damaged, and try not to let it rest on another fruit. Place in a frost-free, dark, but well-ventilated cool room, such as a larder or cellar. Check regularly, and remove any fruit that has spoilt.

Now’s the time to lift and divide rhubarb crowns. Using a sharp spade, divide the crown, ensuring each section contains at least one growing point. Re-plant in well drained, fertile soil, ensuring each crown is well spaced.

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GARLIC

Garlic needs a good cold period to help develop its cloves, so now’s the time to plant it. Don’t be tempted to use bulbs from a supermarket as they may harbour disease. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or online supplier.

In well-drained, fertile soil, place the individual cloves at 20cm apart, in rows 30cms apart. The cloves tips should be all you see of the garlic. You may want to cover over with either a fleece or netting, just to stop birds from pulling them up.

HERBS

Herbs, such as basil, parsley and coriander are not frost hardy. Therefore, pot them up and bring inside. Placing on a well-lit windowsill, should keep them happy over winter.

GREENHOUSE

If you’re hoping to use your greenhouse over the colder months, but an electric heater is not an option, then consider insulating it with bubble wrap. It’s a cheaper option which won’t reduce the light entering your structure. As the days get colder, make sure doors and vents are kept closed and any damaged panels are quickly repaired.

SOIL

If you’re leaving vegetable beds empty over winter, turn the soil. This will not only get air into the soil, but will expose hiding pests. You can also add a thick layer of well-rotted manure, or compost. Over winter, the worms and weather will help break it down, and integrate it into your bed.

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Other Jobs

If you’ve had houseplants outside, now’s the time to bring them back inside. Ideally, let them slowly acclimatise to the indoor heat, otherwise, the shock may damage them.

With boilers and central heating starting to kick in, keep house plants away from direct heat sources. Place them in a draught free area which is cool but with good light.

As this is the month of Halloween, it’s time to carve your pumpkins! This is a great opportunity to get children involved with the allotment or growing patch. Not only will they have seen the pumpkin grow from seed, but they’ll get to harvest and enjoy it. Make sure you don’t waste the flesh though; pumpkins make tasty autumn soups and risottos!

 

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