We’re into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, the days are getting shorter and there’s definitely a nip in the air! October is one of the most beautiful months of the year, but it’s also a busy one for gardeners as it’s time to start the ‘Big Clear Up’ ready for the winter months.
There’s plenty of preparation to be done for next year, with spring bulbs to plant, final lawn care to tackle, and winter vegetables to get into the ground. Here’s your quick guide to those must-do jobs in the garden in October.
Your essential October checklist
- There’s still time to plant daffodils, bluebells, crocuses and other spring bulbs. To create a natural, ‘woodland’ scene, plant drifts of bulbs into your lawn to naturalise and spread.
- Protect delicate plants such as tree ferns and bananas with garden fleece and move citrus trees and other tender plants into the greenhouse.
- Now’s the ideal time to plant new shrubs and trees, or to move existing ones.
- Rake leaves off lawns so that the winter sunlight can reach the grass.
- Clean and disinfect the greenhouse, and insulate it with bubble wrap to reduce your heating bill.
- Check your greenhouse heater.
- Create ‘Hedgehog Hotels’ and wildlife refuges.
- Fill bird feeders with energy-rich winter foods like peanuts, sunflowers and suet balls.
- Rake and aerate your lawn if not already done, and brush in sharp sand to improve drainage.
- Put pots up on pot feet to stop them getting waterlogged in winter.
Flower beds and borders
- Once all the perennials have finished flowering, cut them down, leaving a few stems standing for overwintering insects.
- Mulch beds with well-rotted farmyard manure or bark chippings to suppress weeds, feed the soil and improve soil structure.
- Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials like hostas and daylilies.
- Lift canna, gladiolus and begonia tubers and store them in a frost-free place over winter.
- Clear fallen rose leaves to reduce the spread of black spot and other fungal spores. Burn the leaves or put them in your council green waste collection bin, not on your compost heap.
- Take hardwood cuttings from ornamental trees and deciduous shrubs.
- Prune climbing roses and cut tall shrub and bush roses back by a third to reduce wind rock over winter.
- Empty summer pots and plant them up with cyclamens, heathers and heucheras for winter.
In the veg plot
- Plant out spring cabbage and winter lettuce seedlings.
- Sow kale and spinach in the greenhouse for baby leaves, delicious in salads.
- Harvest any remaining maincrop potatoes
- After all the French and runner beans have been harvested, cut the plants down at ground level and leave the roots in the ground to release nitrogen back into the soil.
- Mulch empty beds with well-rotted farmyard manure to get the soil in good shape for next year’s planting, or sow green manure that can be dug back into the ground in early spring.
- Divide any rhubarb crowns that are more than 5 years old.
- Cut unripe tomatoes off plants and bring them indoors to ripen.
- Harvest pumpkins and squash before the frosts turn them mushy.
- Take the netting off fruit bushes so that birds can get to any overwintering insect pests.