In October, Nathan James Dodd is getting the garden prepared for the onset of winter and he's also planning ahead for how it will look next spring. Here are some gardening jobs that can keep you busy in a month that marks the beginning of autumn.
In most parts of the country frost will arrive in October and, with the evenings drawing in, there is a decidedly autumnal feel to the garden. But there's no time to put your feet up yet, the last of this year's produce is still to be harvested and the garden needs to be tidied and prepared for the winter. You must also ensure the garden is full of life next spring by sowing and planting now.
Most spring bulbs should be planted now, so that their roots are established before the really cold weather, tulips can wait until November. Don't forget to dig in organic soil conditioners and grit if the soil is too wet. Using a bulb planter place the bulbs twice as deep as their depth and think about naturalising them in grass, creating drifts or growing varieties such as lilies through low shrubs.
While the soil is still warm is the best time to seed or turf a lawn after carefully preparing the ground. Repair any patches on existing lawns, aerate the grass with a pair of spiked shoes and rake out moss. Collect fallen leaves and apply an autumn feed.
Clip hedges now and they will remain in good shape over the winter. Keep deadheading and feeding your hanging baskets to keep them going as long as possible.
Transplant strawberry runners that have rooted, either in the existing bed or, to fruit earlier, into a pot that can be placed in the greenhouse. Instead of sowing hardy crops, buy plug plants and plant in well prepared ground preferably under a cloche.
Plant out wallflowers, forget-me-nots, polyanthus etc and sow hardy annuals. Tidy up herbaceous perennials and divide them if necessary using a spade. Tie climbers to protect them from high winds. Plant and take hardwood cuttings of shrubs. Mulch azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias with compost. Move sweet peas that have germinated into the cold frame.
Protect dahlia tubers until May next year by removing top growth and mulching. If you have heavy water retentive soil, remove the tubers and, after drying, dust them with sulphur and then store in a box of dry compost.
All frost tender plants should be protected or brought inside to a frost free environment. Plants growing in your border can be transferred to a container, although they may have to be pruned before you can get them in a greenhouse or conservatory.
Dig up and divide herbaceous perennials that have become overcrowded. Fork over gaps in the border and spread compost.
Prune gooseberries and cut fruited blackberry and autumn raspberry canes back. Cuttings can be taken of currents and gooseberries. Tidy up any broken tree branches and check apple and pears for canker, cut the diseased parts out with a knife and burn. Unblemished apples can be stored in a cool place and should be wrapped separately, pears needn't be wrapped. Green manure can be sowed in vegetable plots but be sure to dig in before it goes to seed.
Except for parsnips that need frost to improve their flavour, begin to lift root vegetables for storing. Beetroot can be kept successfully for several months in boxes filled with damp sharp sand. Use hessian sacks to store potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place. After removing loose scales, onions can be tied together and hung in a frost free shed. When asparagus foliage yellows, cut the stems back to ground level.
When planting autumn onion sets and garlic it's best to buy the garlic from recognised suppliers as supermarket garlic is often grown overseas and may not suit our climate. Continue to earth up leeks and celery. Harvest pumpkins for Halloween.
In the greenhouse, reduce watering tomatoes but don't let them dry out. Stop watering begonias and, when dry, store the tubers in dry compost. Sow annuals for next year and pot up rooted cuttings. Indoor bulbs can be planted and put in a dark position. Line the glass with insulating material such as bubble wrap or other polythene. If you have seedlings, bear in mind that insulation restricts light and that seedlings need all that they can get.
Transplant biennials such as wallflowers to their final position in the border and plant tulip bulbs, both will provide excellent spring colour.
Cover vegetables with cloches to extend the growing season, make sure there's enough ventilation by leaving the ends open. Sow winter salad leaves using summer growbags.
Take the strain out of raking up leaves and either use leaf grabbers or a vacuum to collect them. Bag them, using a fork to make drainage holes, and the resulting leaf mould will be perfect for sowing seeds and cuttings. The garden is full of composting material at this time of the year, grass cuttings, annual flowers, vegetable leaf stems etc. but avoid woody material that takes too long to break down. Burn anything that is diseased, potato plants and pernicious weeds such as ground elder and bindweed.
Clean all your pots and trays using disinfectant and elbow grease before rinsing and drying.
See what's available in our Autumn Gardening Shop
October Pond Maintenence