October is the month that sees the onset of autumn in all its finery. Trees change colour from green to many shades of golden brown. Usually the horse chestnut trees are among the first to turn and this year is no exception. If you have trees in your garden be sure to collect any fallen leaves to turn into leaf mould.
There is always a danger of early frosts in October, so it is wise to prepare your garden. Tree ferns need to be wrapped up cosily to keep them safe. Any terracotta plant pots that are not frost-resistant should be stored in a shed so they don’t crack or begin to crumble should frost hit. Tender perennials will need to be lifted, potted up and taken indoors or into a greenhouse. Once your dahlias have finished flowering lift the tubers and store in a dry, frost-free place so you can replant them next year. Any large planted pots that will be left outside over winter should be raised off the ground to aid drainage. You can place the pots on bricks or use the special feet that can be bought for the purpose. Improving drainage means that pots won’t become waterlogged and so reduces the risk of the pots cracking in frosty weather.
Take a few minutes to have a good look around your garden. Clear away any dead foliage so that the risk of diseases developing is reduced. Prune roses now for the same reason. Ramblers and climbers will need only a light prune to keep them tidy. Bush roses can be pruned quite hard to encourage new growth next year. Windrock can be problem in some gardens over the winter so make sure your roses are firmly bedded in and properly pruned. Other plants can also be pruned at this time of the year. Mostly your aim will be to keep your plants tidy and healthy.
October is a good time to think about adding some colour to your garden through the winter. Once you have cleared away half-hardy annuals like marigolds and petunias, fill the gaps with winter-flowering plants like pansies. Plant some wallflowers and polyanthus for late winter colour. There is still time to plant bulbs for the spring. Tulips, narcissus and muscari will all herald spring with exuberance.
In the vegetable garden it is time to harvest a range of crops. Pumpkins and squash will be ready this month, especially those grown for Halloween. Harvest maincrop potatoes and store for winter use. Runner beans will still be providing you with a crop, but leave some on the plants to dry. Harvest them once they are ready and you will be able to sow them next year. Broad beans can be sown now to crop in early summer. Make successional sowings through the winter for regular cropping next year. Salad crops like lettuce can be protected with cloches to extend their cropping time.
This is the month to order any bare-rooted trees that you might have decided to plant during the winter. Don’t plant in December or January when the weather is at its coldest but November and February are good months to do this job. Avoid waterlogged ground or ground that hasn’t thawed out fully.
Apples should be harvested now. If you intend to store any for winter use, be very careful when you pick them to avoid those with damage. Be gentle with the fruit at all times to avoid damaging them yourself. Windfalls and damaged apples can be turned into juice, eaten immediately, made into pies and desserts or frozen for the future.
Hard-wood cuttings can be taken from gooseberry bushes now. Take your cuttings from this year’s growth. Your cutting should be about 8 inches long and have two or more leaf joints. Bury the cutting so that two-thirds of it is below ground. You will have to wait about two years to get a bush ready to be planted out, but if you take some cuttings every year, you will soon have an established regime for new gooseberry bushes.
If you were unable to carry out lawn maintenance last month, there is still time. Rake the thatch from your grass and give your lawn a feed. Make sure the edges are kept neat to give your lawn a cared-for appearance. Bare patches can be resown with grass seed.