October in the garden

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Keeping busy in the garden this month

October is a beautiful month of autumnal colours and first frosts. Crisp, blue-sky days are the perfect time to tidy up and cut back in the garden. If you grow fruit and veg, there’s still plenty to harvest and store for the cold winter months ahead. Here’s a list of jobs to keep on top of this month:
  • Protect half-hardy plants with fleece or bring them into a frost-free greenhouse.
  • Lift Dahlia tubers, Begonia tubers and Gladioli corms to store dry over the winter months. Remove any dead foliage before storing them.
  • Prune climbing and rambling roses once they’ve finished flowering, and tie in the stems before autumn winds cause damage.
  • Clear up fallen rose leaves to prevent diseases such as black spot from over-wintering. To avoid the spread of damaging fungi, don’t compost the leaves.
  • Clear overhanging plants from pathways to maintain access around the garden.
  • Cut back perennial plants that have died down. Alternatively leave the dead foliage in place to shelter friendly wildlife.
  • After tidying borders, mulch with bark chips, well-rotted manure, leaf mould or spent mushroom compost to insulate plant roots for the winter and keep weed growth in check.
  • This month is the ideal time to plant hedges and move trees and shrubs.
  • Invest in bird baths and bird feeders this autumn. Birds are a gardener’s friend and keep pests down.
  • Use the last of the dry weather to paint sheds and fences with preservative before the winter arrives.
  • Make time to give evergreen hedges a final trim before the bad weather sets in, so they look neat and tidy for the winter.
  • Once plants are dormant, it’s a good time to lift and relocate any that you want to move.
Here are your October jobs in the vegetable garden:
  • Finish harvesting beans and peas. When they’ve finished cropping simply cut the plant away at ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. These crops fix nitrogen which is slowly released into the soil as the roots break down.
  • If you plan to grow beans next year, start preparing the site by digging trenches and filling with manure.
  • Harvest squashes and pumpkins before the first frosts. They quickly turn mushy if left outside!
  • When you harvest your cabbages, leave the root in the ground and make a cut across the stem to encourage a flush of smaller leaves.
  • Hang any tomato or pepper plants with green fruits upside down indoors to ripen.
  • Protect autumn cauliflower heads from frost by wrapping the outer leaves around them and securing with string. Alternatively use a cloche or fleece.
  • Cut back yellowing asparagus foliage to within 5cm of the ground.
  • Reuse old grow bags by cutting away the top and sowing late salad crops. Cropping can be extended into winter if grown under glass, cloches or polytunnels.
  • If you haven’t done so already, cut back the fruited canes of your summer fruiting raspberries, leaving the new green canes for next year’s crop. Tie in next year’s raspberry canes to support wires or fencing.
  • Clear the straw from around the base of strawberry plants to increase ventilation. Shear back old foliage to encourage fresh new growth.
  • Divide congested clumps of rhubarb by digging up and splitting into several pieces with a spade. Re-plant the healthiest looking pieces.
  • Remove any diseased fruits from branches or the ground so they don’t infect next year’s crops.
  • Remove the netting from fruit cages to allow birds to catch and eat any pests that are lurking there.
  • Check stored onions and garlic and remove any rotting bulbs immediately. The neck of the bulb is usually the first area to rot.
  • Check stored potatoes and remove any that are rotting. Use hessian sacks to store your potatoes as this allows the crop to breathe.