Garden Diary: October
Bulbs and flowers
Try to complete spring bulb planting this month.
Plant barerooted or potted wallflowers for the spring.
Trim off old leaves of hellebores to reduce the risk and spread of leaf spot.
Continue to lift and divide perennials. Add compost to the new planting locations.
Lift cannas and dahlias after the first frosts. Invert, dry for a week then put them into trays or pots of slightly moist compost. Label and leave them in a frost-free place for the winter.
In the borders, remove any dead flowers and foliage that have become soft and blackened by frost and any laying on the soil that can harbour slugs and snails. Leave some of the stems and seed heads that stay dry. They look good in frost and provide seeds for birds.
Early this month will be the last chance to take cuttings from tender perennials.
Greenhouse and containers
Pick green tomatoes and set out on staging or window sills to ripen.
Clean the greenhouse floor, staging and glass now. Insulate with bubble wrap for the winter.
Sow some salad leaves in pots and grow under glass for better results.
Bring in tender and borderline hardy plants that will benefit from a warmer and drier environment.
Consider a foliage-based autumn to winter container. There are many evergreen grasses that come in colours and stripes that will provide a good show through the winter months. Heather are good container plants in a bright position. An evergreen fern makes a very good potted plant for a shadier spot on the patio. Adding violas and pansies will supply highlights in a wide range of colours. The pots themselves can add colour, texture and form.
Be sure to use a frost-proof container and set it on bricks or feet to encourage drainage.
Tree, shrubs and climbers
Keep azaleas and rhododendrons moist if there is a dry spell. They are shallow rooted, so will benefit from an autumn mulch.
Prune climbing rose stems that have flowered.
The leaves on many trees and shrubs will soon be turning to flaming autumn colours. Look around for stars like the deciduous euonymus, sorbus, spiraea, flowering cherries… and, if you have space, liquidamber and parrotia .
Tie in new stems on climbing fruit like blackberry, loganberry and similar hybrids.
Prune to the ground the old canes on summer fruiting raspberries. Tie in some of the strongest new canes to fruit next year and remove the rest.
Wrap grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to protect from winter moth.
Order new soft fruit bushes and fruit trees now for autumn planting.
Cut asparagus down to soil level.
Clear out all cropped beds. Sow green manure mix over any areas that will not be used over winter. This will help prevent weeds growing and provide nutrition when dug into the soil in the spring.
Sow winter cabbage and winter salad leaves, such as lambs lettuce and the Japanese varieties.
Plant winter onion sets for June and July cropping.
Other jobs around the garden:
Apply a lawn moss treatment. After three weeks, scarify to remove dead moss and thatch.
Seed bare areas and top dress hollows
To improve your soil: dig in humus-rich material like home made compost and leaf mould. On new beds, especially clay, dig over and leave rough for the winter weather to break up.
And for the birds, it’s time to clean out or replace their boxes and to set aside a few surplus apples for their winter treats.