October Gardener's Calendar
As autumn becomes riddled with frosts, falling golden leaves and darker evenings don’t put away your gardening tools, find winter-flowering plants to fill your garden with colour until spring’s first flourishes.
The days may be shorter, but make sure you find time to reap the benefits of summer by harvesting your vegetables and collecting falling seeds. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste; remember to prepare your plants to withstand the weather!
Sowing and Planting
There is still plenty of time to plant winter-flowering plants such as pansies, violas and wallflowers. Use them in beds and borders or keep up that colourful patio by removing your dying summer pot plants and replacing them with these winter wonders.
Bulbs should be planted from now until the end of November ready for spring, plant bulbs in a sunny spot, two to three times their own depth pointing upwards.
Tidying your garden- Cut back, Prune, Divide
Leaves will consume your garden at this time of year which can lead to disease if they are left after falling; make sure you keep on top of things by raking leaves regularly.
Remove any plants past their best and add them to your compost. Protect your patio containers by raising them on to bricks or special patio container legs; this will stop them from sitting in water throughout the winter.
Some annuals have nothing more to offer at this time of year, simply remove them as they begin to die off and add them to your compost heap. Perennials on the other hand are relatively hardy and don’t have to be moved, just make sure you cut them back harshly and they should come back next year.
Pruning reduces any possible damage caused by plants being top heavy in poor weather. If you are unsure or unwilling to cut back your plants too harshly, simply just make sure all spent flowers and broken stems are removed.
Seeds may be falling from your perennials at this time of year so collect the seeds to be re-planted for spring; this is the most economical way of producing plants year after year. Plant seeds ready for harvesting are easy to spot because they turn a darker colour just before they split and fall. Seeds will be relatively dry but after they are cut from the plant ensure you store them in a cool, dry place to fully dry ready for use next year.
Cover any uncovered soil with mulch or compost to encourage good growth next season. Mulch is an easy solution for covering your soil. Mulch protects delicate soil from the ravages of winter, hinders weed growth and keeps the soil moist and full of nutrients for successful spring planting.
Move any tender plants (including aquatic ones) to an insulated area like a green house or conservatory for the winter to ensure they’ll survive to be re-planted early next spring.
Other forms of protection can be just as effective, covering your plants with a black polythene sheet or fleece blanket should provide enough protection if you usually experience a mild winter.
Don’t neglect your hanging baskets, continue deadheading, watering and feeding your plants. If your plants are past their best, re-plant your hanging baskets with spring flowering bulbs and autumn bedding plants.
It’s not just the weather you have to be wary of this October; plant disease can be prevalent at this time of year because of the wet conditions. October’s showers can cause the likes of grey mould and powdery mildew to take over your plants- have a look at our gardening advice articles for a guide on how to spot and treat these two diseases. Another common problem is fungi which are prevalent in autumn, look out for honey and fairy-ring fungus but remember not all fungus is bad so identify the fungus before removing it.
Vegetables and Fruit
October is the perfect time for harvesting, be sure to harvest your produce at the peak of their flavour. Regardless of what stage your fruit and vegetables are at make sure they are harvested before the first frosts.
Tomatoes may still be green this time of year, don’t leave them to be destroyed by the cold weather in hope they will ripen, it’s better to put them inside a greenhouse or conservatory. An easy way to speed up the ripening process is to store your tomatoes next to a banana; the ethylene gas is released by the banana, causing the tomatoes to ripen.
Herbs need to be picked and dried before they are stored in jars for winter use.
Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and beetroots need to be dug up. Only parsnips should be left in the ground because they taste better after the first frosts.
October is primarily a month for harvesting, but you can still sow winter hardy lettuce, winter spinach, onions, garlic and shallots.
The majority of fruit needs to be harvested this month, if it hasn’t already been harvested earlier this year. This doesn’t mean that your gardening year is finished in terms of fruit, now is the time to order new fruit trees and bushes and prepare the ground for them. Remember to cut back your berry canes to soil level but leave new canes developed this year in place.