Garden To Do List for October

Hello October!

The key tasks for an organised, growing, healthy garden for this month are:

1. Cut back perennials

Assess your perennials. Those that have strong stems with plenty of seeds in drying flowerheads can be left for the birds. The perennials that are turning to a mushy mess need to be cut back. Leaving the mushy flower heads will encourage diseases.

While checking your plants, remove any fallen leaves caught in the crowns of plants. Again, this will reduce the risk of rot and diesease.

2. Prune climbing roses

Now is the time to start pruning climbing roses to encourage the best displays next year. The main pruning season for these prickly climbers is closer to December - but now is a wise time to shorten long, whippy growths down to around 15cm. This will stop the now rougher winds from causing tears and breaks in these more fragile branches.

Cut the prunings into small pieces or shred branches and put them into the compost heap.

3. Lay turf

With recent rain, the soil is moist but temperatures are keeping the soil warm. October is a great time to lay turf.

Only lay turf on perfectly prepared soil and lay the turf the day it arrives. Complete the task in the day and, if it doesn't rain, keep the turf well-watered to aid establishment of the roots. 

4. Lift dahlias

As the stunning foliage and flora of dahlias is dying down, tubers should be lifted and stored in a frost-free location.

In warmer areas and in gardens with well-drained soil, some gardeners will leave tubers in the ground all winter - but this can be a risk. Frost can kill the tubers, preventing any future growth.

Cut the stems and leaves off and carefully ease the tubers out of the soil. The tubers will look like knobbly potatoes with thick stubby fingers. A garden fork gently wiggled into the soil away from the centre can help loosen and free the tuber from the ground.

Place the tubers in large trays lined with newspaper and put them in a shed or garage. They do not require light and will be happy hibernating until next spring when replanting starts. 

5. Plant shrubs

While the soil is warm from the sun and moist from the showers, now is the time to plant new shrubs. Do it now so the roots can stretch out and mature before the harsh winter weather. This will make them stronger and happier.

Unless instructions say otherwise, plant the shrub at the same depth as they are growing in their pots. Water all new plantings in well. Firm the plants in after a week or so because, as the soil settles, roots can become loose.

Roots will grow all winter (if mild) and plants will get off to a superb growing start next spring.

6. Clear leaves from the lawn

Grass will turn yellow and die underneath leaves. A regular rake up will get rid of leaves, scrape up any other debris and allows air to get to the surface of the lawn. This will result in healthy growth.

Carry out raking when the lawn is dry to prevent creating soggy imprints on the lawn.

7. Mow the lawn

Though getting slower, grass will keep growing if the temperature is above 6C or so. Only cut on dry days and raise the blades on the mower ever so slightly. It will result in a clean cut and less stress to the lawn.

Mowing the lawn is also a great way to gather up those leaves.

8. Make leafmould

Leafmould is perfect for adding to compost in pots and containers or as a soil conditioner. Pile raked up leaves into an open compost bin made from chicken wire. Add leaves to this leaf pen throughout autumn. They will rot down to crumbly organic matter.

Alternatively, put the leaves in black plastic bags. Sprinkle with water, tie the tops, pierce a few holes in the bag and stack in a quiet part of the garden. Wait 6 months or so and then open to discover leafmould!

9. Keep planting bulbs

Daffodils, ornamental onions, crocus, frillilaries should all be planted by early to mid-October. Tulips should be planted at the end of the month to reduce the risk of diseases. Pots and containers with plenty of drainage are fantastic and of course all bulbs look superb when planted in borders. Just don’t delay or you’ll be sorry next spring.

For a spectacular spring display, bulbs needs planting now. You started last month and still have plenty to go at - daffodils, crocuses, ornamental onions, frilliaries and hyacinths all go into the ground this month. It's best to get them in by mid-October. Tulips can wait until the end of the month.

Plant the bulbs pointy end up, three times as deep as they are tall and cover with soil.

10. Move tender plants under cover

Temperatures are dropping and any tender plants may need moving to more sheltered spots or placing in the greenhouse.

If houseplants have been vacationing outside, move them back inside. Check that they don't have any unwanted surprises in the form of aphids or mealy bugs.