October is a month of mixed weather; however, autumn has definitely arrived and winter could be upon us at any moment. There is plenty to do in the garden, so let’s look at your top ten priorities.
Apples, pears, grapes, nuts, beans, peas, squashes and pumpkins continue to ripen this month and need gathering before the frost. Still-green tomatoes and peppers can be hung upside down indoors to finish ripening.
Protect late cauliflowers by gathering the outer leaves around the heads and securing with string.
Leave the nitrogen-rich roots of beans, peas and cabbages in the ground.
2. Prune and trim
Perennials, fruit canes and roses should be pruned back. Strawberry and asparagus foliage benefit from the same.
This is your last chance to trim your lawns and hedges. Aerate lawns with your fork and repair them with new turf if needed.
Some plants are best left untrimmed; for example, hydrangea heads protect their foliage from wind-chill.
3. Tidy and clean
Raking up fallen leaves seems endless, but they can be a breeding ground for blight and pests. Don’t compost anything that might re-infect your plants.
If you are assembling a bonfire, cover it so it can dry out before you light it. Beware sheltering hedgehogs before applying a match!
If you have water features, give them loose covers to prevent pollution with falling leaves. Clean water butts ready for fresh rain.
4. Compost and fertiliser
Fallen foliage is a precious asset; mulching it with manure, bark chips and kitchen waste will improve it further. If it gets hot inside, you are doing it right; however, don’t let it self-ignite.
5. Pest precautions
Waterlogged pots encourage pests and mildews, so raise them off the ground with stones.
Remove netting to let the birds get to insect pests; in fact, feed them throughout winter because, aside from raiding a little fruit, birds are a gardener’s best friend.
Wrap cloth around fruit tree trunks to deter egg-laying pests or apply an insecticidal wash.
6. Greenhouses and sheds
Now is the time to clean and disinfect your greenhouse before moving stuff in and out. Overwintering plants will need as much light as possible. Test your heaters now before you need them.
It is also the best time to apply preservatives to sheds, frames and fences. Once this is done, bring in those sensitive plants, always checking for pests first.
7. Collecting in
A lot of seeds and tubers also need bringing in for dry storage, such as onions, garlic, potatoes, dahlia tubers and gladioli corms. Remember the adage ‘one rotten apple’.
If you want to move trees or shrubs, now is the time. It is also the right time for taking cuttings and dividing up overcrowded clumps of rhubarb or perennials while the soil is still warm but moist.
9. Planting for spring
Plant out spring cabbages, biennials, strawberries, and many types of fruit tree and ornamental shrubs.
It is also time for daffodil and tulip bulbs to go in, or onions, and for clematis and spring bedding plants such as wallflowers and primulas. You can also still sow hardy annuals from seed.
10. Planting for winter
Some plants grow all year round, so fill your containers with fresh winter bedding plants. You can also still sow late salad crops in your greenhouse.