October in the Garden
The nights are getting chillier and longer, and everywhere I look there are pumpkins on display. Yes, it’s October now, time of mists and mellow fruitfulness (to misquote a Romantic poet, Keats). So, what jobs are there to do in the garden?
TIDYING UP JOBS
There’s always plenty of deadheading, pruning, seed collecting, and weeding to do. And if you haven’t finished all your September jobs, there’s still time!
If you have a greenhouse, you should take down any shade netting, or wash off any shade paint this month. Any plants you plan to move into the greenhouse will need all the light they can get over winter. And the glass will need washing down too, both inside and out. Tip: wash the outside when it’s raining, it’s much quicker and you won’t need to rinse!
Protect your fruit trees from the wingless female winter moths. They crawl up the trunks and lay their eggs, which hatch into very hungry caterpillars that will feed on the leaves, blossom and fruit of your trees. Tying sticky grease bands around the trunks this month will go a long way towards stopping this.
After enthusiastically planting over 1,000 bulbs in pots and the ground last Autumn, I’ve decided to be more sensible this year and just go for some late spring colour in my borders.
I’ve got a mix of Purple Sensation alliums (think giant chives) and smaller, wild garlic alliums (to make pesto, yum). And some magenta gladioli Byzantinus, which have much smaller flowers than their showier and later flowering cousins. That said, I’ll still be ordering some tulip bulbs for planting into pots in November.
The soil is still warm and moist so you can direct sow your hardy annuals now (eg, cornflowers, poppies, larkspur, borage, and wildflower mixes) so they can start putting down roots before winter. Don’t worry if the top foliage dies off in the frosts, the flowers will still bloom, and you’ll have a lovely earlier selection to admire and pick.
You can also sow your sweet peas into Rootrainers and then keep them in the greenhouse over winter. They’ll be ready to plant out once the frosts are over next year and will be stronger and quicker to flower than those sown in spring.
Don’t forget to direct sow your broad beans too. Even though the foliage will blacken in the frosts, the plants will recover and you’ll be harvesting your own broad beans much earlier than spring-sown plants will crop. Garlic prefers cooler temperatures too, so now is the best time to plant your cloves for a May/June harvest next year.
Keep deadheading your flowers to encourage new flowers to form, even at this time of year. We still have cosmos, dahlias, anemones, asters, wallflowers, scabious, borage, mallows, snapdragons, verbena, and shrub roses blooming happily.
I need to prune and tie in our climbing roses though, with the aim of encouraging a mass of fragrant new flowers next summer. We don’t have any blackcurrant bushes but if you do, now’s the time to prune out this year’s stems to make way for new green growth which will bear next year’s fruits.
When you prune, try and remove any stems or branches that are diseased, old, or crossing. You want to prune just above an outward facing bud or shoot, and do it with a clean, sharp pair of secateurs or loppers to avoid bruising or otherwise harming the plant.
Our greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers are still cropping but I think I’ll need to call time in a couple more weeks and clear them out so I can clean the greenhouse ready for winter.
Our apples have finished (we have a VERY early ripening variety), as have our plums and blueberries. We still have a handful of quinces to pick – not enough to make jelly but probably sufficient for a couple of delicious crumbles!
My October in the garden is looking quite busy then. How is your list of jobs shaping up? Do let me know!
A GUEST BLOG BY LISA MCLACHLAN.
Visit her website: www.lisasnotebook.com.