Things to do in the garden in October

Photo of Things to do in the garden in October

October is probably my busiest month. Days are still warm, rain quite frequent though not lasting for long and I find that where in England spring and autumn are equally busy planting times here it is much better to get all trees and most shrubs and perennials into the ground in autumn giving them time to grow good deep roots before the very dry weather which usually begins at the beginning of May.

Anything planted in spring needs regular watering to survive the baking summers and like the UK we usually have a water ban.

The jobs to be done are generally about the same as those in the UK.

Protecting Plants from the cold

At this time of the year I am constantly watching the weather forecasts to make sure my more tender plants are not exposed to the cold. I have moved my citrus plants and daturas under the shelter of the barn but before the weather becomes much colder I will protect them further.

I tend to put all my plants into one sheltered position and surround them with straw. During very cold spells I cover them all with fleece. If this is not possible each plant could be wrapped in fleece and the pots wrapped in bubblewrap or straw to protect the roots. Banana palms I pack in straw to make sure they survive the winter. Tender plants in the garden can be wrapped in fleece and plants which die back but have tender roots, tubers etc need a thick covering of straw.

I leave dahlias in the ground, see dahlias, but if you prefer to lift yours to store for the winter a good tip is to roll the tuber in ash from the fire in order to prevent fungal infections.

Outdoor fuschias should be cut back after the first frosts and given a thick covering of straw.

Divide Perennials

Now is the time to divide perennials. Congested clumps need dividing in order to encourage plenty of flowering next year and of course dividing is one of the best ways to increase your stocks of plants.

To divide, dig up the whole clump, and divide into smaller pieces. Either tease the clump apart or cut using a spade. Replant in groups of three or five for good displays the following year.

Plant new plants and trees

Now is a good time to plant trees, shrubs and perennials to give them time to develop strong root systems before the dry summers. There are often special offers in the large garden stores at this time of the year selling common trees and shrubs at very reasonable prices. Lots of perennial plants are sold very cheaply too in small pots or 'godets', a good way to increase your range of plants without spending a fortune.

To plant new plants dig a planting hole at least twice the size of the root ball and mix in some compost with the excavated soil. Work the excavated soil to ensure it is crumbly and will be easy for the plant to push its roots into. Plant the plant using this soil.

Recent information suggests that it is better not to mix too much compost into the new planting hole as this can discourage plants from pushing roots into the surrounding more difficult soil. Also if your soil is heavy clay like mine and you plant your planting hole with a mix containing much more compost and less of the original clay this will make the planting hole a natural resevoir for water from the surrounding soil and your plant will ultimately drown.

Plant Spring Bulbs

Deadheading

For a continuous supply of flowers keep deadheading. Annual bedding plants such as petunias need weekly deadheading to encourage further flowering. I deadhead my dahlias once or twice a week (usually when I am cutting a fresh supply for displays in the house) and my dahlias have been flowering continuously for a good 3 months or more now. I reallly could not have too many dahlias in my garden and am already looking forward to perusing the catelogues in the winter to choose my next purchases.

Collecting seed

My echinaceas, cosmos, guillardia, ornamental grasses, sunflowers, to name but a few are all now starting to produce seed. I collect mine into paper envelopes and keep cool until I am ready to sow.

Taking cuttings

Take cuttings from tender perennials such as fuschias and pelargoniums to have a free display next spring. Cut off some none flowering sideshoots about 10cm long. Pull of lower leaves and cut just below a leaf joint. Dip the base in hormone rooting powder (optional but not essential, this can speed up the rooting process). Push into a compost specially bought for cuttings or add gritt to an all purpose compost. Water and cover with a plastic bag and leave in a bright spot. When roots have developed pot on seperately.

Take cuttings of clematis. These are one of the few plants where the cut should be made between two leaf joints rather than directly below a leaf joint. After follow the process described above.

Rose care

Remove diseased leaves from roses to help prevent the disease reappearing next year.

Plant container-grown roses.

In the Potager

Plant garlic and onions when sets become available in the shops.

Sow : continue sowing salad crops for spring cropping. Cover with cloches to protect over winter

Plant broad beens and hardy peas now to get a crop early in spring.

Earth up leeks  blanch stems.

Cut back to the crown half of you ruby chard to produce small leaves for salad. Keep the other half for eating in the same way as spinach.

Plant out strawberries.

Store apples for the winter. Store in a box and seperate each apple with screwed up newspaper. Keep in a well ventilated shed  protected from frost.

Bring potted basil and parsley under cover.

Wrap grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to trap the female winter moth which crawls up the tree.

Sow  spring cabbage, winter spinach, calabrese, early carrots and mangetout.

Plant onion sets and garlic.

Dig up and burn tomato plants. Green tomatoes can be made into a delicious chutney or left to ripen on the window sill.

Store your walnuts. First of all take off the outer green skin. Wash the nuts and leave to dry in a well aerated place for a month.

Chestnuts lose their moisture very quickly and need to be stored in dry sand to retain their moisture.

What to do in the garden next month

see things to do in the garden in November

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