October Gardening Advice

Nights may be drawing in and winter may be around the corner, but there are plenty of timely tasks to keep you busy in the garden through October. In fact, while many concentrate on shutting down the garden until next spring, this is a key month for establishing new planting displays. Spend time this month planting out new perennials, trees, shrubs and you’ll be rewarded with a stronger performance from next spring onwards. Surprisingly perhaps, a wide range of seeds can be sown both for the flower border and the veg patch, all with the inbuilt hardiness to make it through the winter for earlier results in 2018.

Storing summer bulbs and tubers
Gardeners in cold regions or working with wet soils should lift and clean summer bulbs such as gladioli for storing in a frost-free location over winter. The bulbs should be stored in paper bags or boxes of sawdust to keep them dry and prevent moulds setting in. Dahlias and begonia tubers should also be given the same treatment, but wait for the first hard frost to attack plants before lifting them from the garden.

Divide perennials
As summer-flowering herbaceous perennials start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to fill other areas of the garden, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour, for the best performance next year. Here are some simple tips for easy plant division:

  • Using a garden fork, aim to lift as much root mass as possible with minimal damage the roots. Shake off excess soil or wash it away so you can see what you are working with.
  • Some plants produced individual plantlets that can be teased apart and replanted or potted.
  • Other with small fibrous rots are best pulled apart gently by hand to create small clumps for replanting.
  • Those with thicker fibrous roots can be pulled apart by inserting two forks, back to back, into the centre of the crown. Push the handles together to create a levering action to break the root mass apart. Really congested, dense root masses can be divides using a sharp knife or saw.
  • Plants should be replanted or potted immediately and water well

Winter protection for perennials
As perennials are cut back ahead winter or divided for more stocks it pays to provide the exposed crowns with some winter protection.  A mulch of garden compost or similar will help to protect the dormant crowns from winter damage.  If the plant in question dies back fully, it can be fully covered with mulch. If it dies back to a basal rosette of leaves, these should be surrounded by mulch but left uncovered on top.
Any borderline hardy perennials such as penstemon, phygelius and salvia should be mulched, but their spent top growth should be kept in place until spring as extra winter protection for the crowns below.

Planting spring bulbs
For the best spring bulb container displays it pays to get creative with lasagne layering. This simple process involves planting several different types of spring bulb together in one pot. Instead of setting them at the same depth, the bulbs are set in layers within the compost. This creates a tiered effect to the spring colour as the bulbs then bloom at different heights adding real punch to your pot displays. Try it with

Planting for spring.
October is a perfect month for setting out traditional mixed spring displays of flowering bulbs and bedding.  Stunning on their own or mixed together, our pansies, violas, primroses, bellis daisies, wallflowers, and forget-me-nots all offer effortless colour for the colder months of the year.  Plant by variety, or mix together for a kaleidoscope of colour. All our bedding plants work perfectly with spring flowering bulbs too. As you plant your beds and borders add a bulb in between each plant for extra height and colour some spring.

Sowing for Spring
Many flowering hardy annuals can be sown in beds and borders in October for earlier colour next year. They will establish roots and foliage this side of winter, waking up in early spring to put on a strong floral display in late spring/early summer.

Seeds should be sown in prepared, weed-free soil that has been raked level to a fine tilth. They can either be scattered (broadcast) over the area and raked in for an informal look, or the area can be divided into various patches and the seeds sown in drills for a more ordered look.

For more detailed advice on direct sowing see our guide: http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Home/Growing-Guides/Direct-sowing-in-the-garden.html#.WaUtbyiGOM8

If there is no space due to winter performing bedding displays, hardy annuals can be started off undercover and then hardened off for overwintering in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse for planting in out in spring.

Sowing sweet peas
Exhibition sweet pea growers will be busy sowing this month and it pays to follow suit if you want the biggest and best flowers next summer. By sowing now and overwintering the seedlings in a cold but frost-free greenhouse you will have the biggest, strongest plants to set out in April next year, leading to earlier flowering and bigger blooms.

October planting
October is a perfect month for planting out new container grown perennials, trees and shrubs. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Prepare lawns for winter
Lawn grass continues to grow while temperatures remain above 5C, so continue to mow through October where needed. For the best condition for your lawn there are a few simple extras to carry out in October for pitch perfect performance:

  • Autumn feed: Look out for specialist autumn lawn feeds that are low in nitrogen and higher in potassium and phosphorous. This will reduce top growth while promoting root growth and boosting hardiness and disease resistance.
  • Aeration: Use a garden fork to pierce the lawn to a depth of 10-15cm, this will improve drainage and open up the soil structure to get air to the roots for healthier growth. The holes can be filled in with a topdressing of lawn sand or left to close naturally.
  • Leaf Collection: Autumn leaves should be raked off of lawns. If allowed to settle, sunlight is blocked and the grass below dies off, leaving patches where weeds could establish.

Make Leaf Mould Mulch
Rather than add autumn leaves to your general composting bin, think about making pure leaf mould. As you rake up fallen leaves, stash them in a large thick bin bag. When full, pierce a few aeration holes, sprinkle the leaves with water, shake the bag and tie.
Store in a shady spot out of sight. By next autumn the leaves will have broken down into a crumbly texture, which can be used as a mulch.

Grow your own

Top tip for late potatoes Lingering potato crops can be cut down to ground level know, to avoid frost damage. The tubers can then be lifted as needed over the next month or so. The crop should ideally be lifted and stored ahead of any prolonged frosts and severe winter weather.

Top tip for late tomatoes If you have lingering tomatoes plants under glass that are slow to ripen you can speed up the process by stripping all the foliage from the plants  Pack hoses away

Planting Fruit
October is a perfect month for planting out new container grown top fruit and soft fruit, grapes, nuts. Soils retain some of their summer warmth through the month but moisture levels are on the rise thanks to autumn rain. This creates the perfect conditions for early root establishment and also reduces the level of watering needed during the critical early stages of establishment. Watering may be needed in prolonged dry spells next year, but winter wet will have done a large part of the settling in process for you.

Divide rhubarb
As rhubarb plants start to die down and move into their dormant phase it is a perfect time to lift and divide them. Not only will you get more plants to help fill the fruit patch, it will help avoid congestion and maintain health and vigour and better ongoing stalk production

October Greenhouse maintenance

  • Remove shade paint and netting to maximise light levels
  • Have a general sweep down of all surfaces
  • Disinfect benches, pots and tools,
  • Check heaters are ready for use fit bubble wrap insulation.
  • Open doors and vents still on sunny days, but close up again before late afternoon

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