Spring and autumn are the two busiest times of the year and
it is worth remembering one while working the other. Bulb
planting is a good example as they are responsible for waking up
the garden in spring. Bulbs are fantastic value and have instant
impact, but remember it is better to buy few varieties in larger
numbers of each.
Plant bulbs early while the soil is still
warm, to get roots established before the weather closes in.
Tulips, however, are happy to go in even as late as November, so
leave them until last. Bulbs should be planted at two and a half
to three times their own depth and plant in drifts.
Grow bulbs in pots. That way they can be moved around where
colour and warmth is most needed and the display can be changed
also from day to day.
Think about bringing in any houseplants that have been
outside during spring and summer but acclimatise them slowly. In
warm areas it is worth risking half-hardy perennials until the
end of October to make the most of the final blooms, but in
frost-prone or exposed areas you will need to bring them under
cover, or into shelter.
As a precaution against losing half-hardy pelargonium,
fuchsia and Brugmansia, cuttings taken early in summer should
now put under cover in a frame where they should remain until
the end of November when they need full protection from the
winter frosts. A frost free garage or shed is fine. Now is also
a good time to give frames a good muck out to prevent any fungal
Don’t worry too much about early frosts, they tend to be
light and cannas and dahlias will be fine in the ground for a
bit, even if their tops do go brown. You can leave them in the
ground if you mulch heavily, and they can be happy for four or
five years outside if the mulch is deep enough. Once they show
signs of becoming weak, it is time to divide and re-propagate,
and in these years the old tubers need to be lifted, stored in
slightly-damp compost and frost-free conditions, and divided or
used for cuttings come next spring.
Geraniums, persicaria and
the likes of Achillea can be cut back hard, lifted with a fork
and gently split apart. Reuse the healthy, outer growth and dump
the old material on to the compost heap. With warmth still in
the ground, roots should take hold before winter comes.
October is really the start of the planting season, and
plants encouraged to germinate now will benefit from the months
of head start to get roots in. Cabbages and other spring
brassicas do really well. Sweet peas sown in pots to over-winter
in a sheltered position or a frame will be ready for planting
out come spring, and October is a good time to sow lawns and
To make the most of the moment let some of the autumn foliage
lie as it’s a natural mulch. However, beware of and build-up on
lawns and rake them free to prevent browning off the grass. Also
remember to keep paths and terraces free for contrast and safety
– wet leaves are slippery! An autumn feed to stimulate root
growth is worth applying on lawns especially those that get a
great deal of wear in the summer.
Pumpkins and gourds can be harvested now and moved into dry
positions to prevent rot. Pick windfall apples for cooking and
twist those on the tree half a turn to see if they're ripe. If
they are, they'll come away with a gentle snap. Unblemished
apples can be stored in a cool dry shed to last long into
As ground becomes vacant dig it over and spread manure on the
surface. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps and the
worms will break these up as they get the manure. The freezing
and thawing of water in the soil during winter will cause the
soil to break up finely so becoming easier to handle in the
spring. October and November are good months to undertake double
digging, incorporating manure into the bottom of the trench and
deepening your topsoil.
Deadhead roses as soon as they start to go off, and although
roses are generally pruned in the spring, you can reduce long
climbing stems to protect the plant from the ravages of the
wind. Reduce them just enough to keep them secure. You can also
tie in any new growth where it is appropriate.
You can scrape out your pond. All the black sludge at the
bottom is an indication of a lack of oxygen. Scrape it out and
pile it on the side of the pond to allow any wildlife access to
the water. Then stretch a net over the pond to stop falling
leaves from collecting in the pond. You can then compost the