Gardening in October

Tuesday, 11 October 2016  |  Alison

I really think that October can be the busiest month in the garden, don’t you? There are so many jobs to do before the winter sets in but here’s the thing – I always think I have more time than I do – the relatively warm temperatures and sunny mornings lull me into a false sense of late summer lasting until at least December!

Once pretty, but now straggly, summer bedding plants need to be pulled up,  spring bulbs for pots need to be chosen and planted, seeds need to be sown, the greenhouse is still waiting for its autumn wash-down and the conifers desperately require a firm ‘short back and sides’.

So, whilst I contemplate which job to get on with first, here are a few more tasks that may still need to be done in your garden this October….

  • Autumn, when soil is moist and warm, is an ideal time to divide any perennials that have outgrown their allotted space.  Once they have flowered, cut back the top growth, dig out the remaining plant with a good amount of roots and cut in half or thirds. Remove any dead stems or excess roots and replant one third with a mix of compost and soil and water in well.  The remaining sections can be planted elsewhere in the garden or give them away to other gardening friends.
  • Collect any seeds from plants that you want to re sow next year. Collect them on a dry day and keep them stored in a dry spot until needed.
  • Hanging baskets past their best should be taken down and re-done for a great display of winter flower colour.    It is best to use new compost every season to give your plants the best start.Winter pansies, violas, bellis daisies, primroses, trailing ivies, thymes and heathers are all good reliable plants for baskets as well as containers and patio pots and if you under plant them with the smaller bulbs, such as Narcissus Tête á Tête, miniature tulips and snowdrops you will have an extended display well into next spring.
  • My alpine strawberries have run riot this summer so a good session in my border clearing most of them and replanting a few of the new runners in the ground has been very satisfying. I have also planted some in a hanging basket to have tiny strawberries growing at eye level next summer.   This works well with any type of strawberry, especially Strawberry Loran, a bigger juicy fruit. Pretty flowers followed by tasty fruit.
  • In the greenhouse, tomato plants will probably remain green and not ripen now that the warmth and light are now fading, so bring any remaining fruits inside and place them on a sunny windowsill to ripen.
  • If you have saved seed from sweet pea pods, now is the time to sow them in pots, preferably with plenty of room for root growth, and leave them in the greenhouse to slowly grow over the winter months, ready to plant out next spring.
  • HERBS……  Perennial herbs that grow in the garden, like marjoram and chives, can be cut back now to tidy the untidy growth.  I can already see next year’s new shoots appearing at the base of the marjoram.  Annuals, like the taller Dill and Fennel I like to leave for a while longer as they make a good autumn display and the seed heads look stunning in the frosty mornings and cobwebs look so dainty with the dew droplets on them.
  • Fallen leaves can be raked up regularly and put aside in a wire mesh construction and left for a year or two to give you your own ‘Leaf Mould’ which can then be incorporated back into the soil to give structure. It’s a great way to re-use garden waste.

If your garden is lacking in colour during the autumn season then now is a good time of year to buy a plant or two to rectify this.  Shrubs like Hydrangeas, Asters, Viburnums and Caryopteris all give great colour and form to the borders.  

When space is not an issue, an Acer (Japanese Maple) is a great specimen tree to have in the garden and one to give a splash of red every autumn is Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’.  It can grow up to 8m in height but there are plenty of other varieties  of Acers for smaller gardens and they can look outstanding in a large pot on a patio or overlooking a pond area.  Try ‘Shindeshojo’ or ‘Katsura’ for containers.

Right then, I am off into the garden to do a bit of gentle digging with a mug of Earl Grey and a chocolate biscuit.

Have fun and enjoy your garden!

Alison

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