October in the Garden 2020

Wednesday, 7 October 2020  |  Alison

This month - Planting spring bulbs. Refreshing borders. Lifting & dividing perennials. Houseplants. Greenhouse summer crops. Recipe for Alison’s mild green tomato chutney.

I like to think of October as late summer rather than autumn. It gives me a more positive feeling, like summer is still carrying on.  But the fact is, this month sees a lot of change in the garden.  The light is more dappled as the sun becomes lower in the sky and the days and nights become cooler. It is darker a bit earlier every day and usually it’s a windier, rainier month. Frost is a threat, always just around the corner, but it is never all doom and gloom in the garden, so here are a few gardening jobs to be getting on with this month before autumn really sets in: -

Plant Tete-a-Tete narcissi spring bulbs in the lawn.  This versatile spring bulb grows to a height of around 20cm and for smaller gardens is a perfect spring flowering plant to naturalise. This means planting the bulbs in an area of the lawn or perhaps under deciduous ornamental trees. The best way to make them look as though they are just there naturally is to throw a handful in the area and plant them where they land. Crocus and snowdrops work well too, using this method.

Refresh borders if they are looking overgrown and untidy. Start with one small area, perhaps that you can see from the patio or kitchen window, and assess what you would like to see, rather than what you can actually see.  If an evergreen shrub is taking over, trim it back. If perennials are outgrowing their spot, dig them up, split them and replant half and put the other half elsewhere in the garden.

I have just emptied and dug over a sunny, dryish border that had become overrun with ground cover plants - lamium, dianthus, osteospermum (that hardly flowered this year) and a vigorous hardy geranium, all lovely but over time, they seem to mesh together and nothing else gets a look in. Anyway, they are all gone now (well, when I say gone, I mean they are sitting in a tray of water waiting for a new home) and in their place are salvia, gaura and alstroemeria. All love a sunny spot and do not like wet feet in winter so this bed should be right up their street.  I will plant tulips too, but not until November.

Plant up spring bulbs in pots. Planting in pots means that you can move them around patios and borders as they come into bloom. Label the pots once planted so that you know what is in each pot. Try and choose bulbs that will be in flower at different times during spring. As a general rule snowdrops come out first, followed by crocus, then hyacinth, daffodils and lastly, tulips.

Lift and divide perennials that have not flowered so well this season. This is probably because they have become congested.  I’m thinking particularly of iris, osteospermum, sedum and crocosmia as these are clumps that I need to sort out this month. Once lifted, cut the clumps in half or quarters depending on their size and replant around the garden or give the excess to friends or neighbours who may really appreciate the gesture.

Check on houseplants that you brought outside for the summer months.  It is time for them to come in, either to the greenhouse or onto a cool windowsill in your home. Most houseplants cannot tolerate the cold or excess wet, especially exotics like orchids. Tidy any straggly growth. Repot with the appropriate fresh compost if the plants looked pot bound. Water in but then reduce the amount of watering for the winter months when plants are not actively growing.

Greenhouse crops like chilli plants grown in the summer can now be moved inside to a sunny windowsill for ripening and eating, or preserving. Pick remaining tomatoes and bring them inside even if they are still green. You can make jars of tomato chutney (recipe below) with the green tomatoes and make soup or tomato sauce for pasta dishes with the red tomatoes. Both freeze well too, so in mid-winter you can have the delicious taste of summer. Once your greenhouse is empty of summer grown crops – give shelving a clean with disinfectant ready for winter. Bring in plants that need protection from cold, wet and frost, like tender aeoniums and succulents, cactus plants and pelargoniums.  Reduce watering for the winter and keep them on the dry side until spring.


Have fun and enjoy your garden,


Your Brookside Blogger



I love herbs but not spices or garlic so hubster made this mild chutney and it is delicious in the cheese sandwiches that I make for my lunch at the nursery. So, if you like yours hot - add garlic, spices and chillies to the ingredient list.

Alison’s Mild Green Tomato Chutney 

*2 kg Green tomatoes from the garden – washed and roughly chopped

*300g Sultanas – washed and checked by me for inedible stalks!

*500g Eating apples from the garden – washed, peeled and chopped. You can use cooking apples but we used what we had to hand.

*850ml red wine Vinegar

*1kg Red onions – peeled and chopped

*Fresh bay leaves from the garden

*500g Muscovado sugar

*1 tsp dried tarragon

*1 tsp coarse sea salt

*Black Pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in the frying pan and cook onions gently. Add bay leaves and tarragon and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, apples and 425ml of the vinegar and cook until soft (approx. 15 mins).
  3. Then add the remaining vinegar, sugar, sultanas, salt & pepper. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Turn up the heat to just above simmering and let mixture cook for approx. 1-2 hrs.
  5. Chutney is ready when it has thickened and is not too liquidy.
  6. Remove bay leaves. Pot whilst hot into clean, hot sterilised jars. Allow to cool and eat -Yum!
Brookside Nursery