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October in the Garden
Monday, 1 Oct 2012 7:19 pm
The nights draw in, and October sees the clocks go back. First frosts start in colder parts of the country and gardening time feels shortened by the shorter daylight hours, but days can be glorious, with the autumn colour a benefit of the light falling off and the low sun in the sky throwing rich shadows around.
ApplesSpring 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 infections.

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 meadows.

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 winter.

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 debris.

Trade discount for professional gardners.

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Opening Times:  March to December: Monday to Saturday - 8am - 6pm  |  January & February: Monday to Saturday - 8am - 5pm  |  Sunday's 10am - 4pm All year
Please note: We are closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day and Easter Sunday
We close early (3pm) on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.


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