The gardener’s calendar: October

The nights are drawing in and the first frost is imminent. Soon the clocks will be going back and with the shorter days you’ll get less time to spend in the garden. But the glorious explosion of reds, yellows, oranges and browns during the day time will definitely make up for it. While you’re out there, the main jobs you need to think about this month are: clearing away the remains of the summer bedding plants; planting new bulbs; and preparing non-hardy plants for the first frost. There’s also the on-going battle with falling leaves to think about (but we’re sure we don’t have to remind you of that struggle). Above all, the most important thing to do in your garden this October is enjoy it. It’s going to be a while before you spend any real time in it again.

Top tasks for October:

Clear up fallen leaves

When it comes to autumn leaves, you may feel like you’re fighting a never-ending battle. One gust of wind and your clear lawn is engulfed once again. But don’t despair, just think about the good you’re doing for your lawn. A layer of leaves will suffocate the grass, leaving behind awful-looking brown patches that just won’t look good come springtime.

Start making leaf mulch

Another reason to keep clearing up fallen leaves is that you can turn them into a free, organic mulch for your soil. Collect the leaves up into a simple frame, such as one made from chicken wire, or use a black bin bag spiked with air holes. Pile the leaves into your container (be careful not to put any diseased material in there), and then just leave it be. It takes about 12 months for the leaves to properly rot down, meaning next year you’ll have a great mulch for your rhododendrons and camellias, without spending a penny.

 Tidy up (but not too much)

October’s the time for clearing up. Greenhouses, ponds, gutters and water butts all need a good clean out and wooden garden furniture will need covering up and putting away for the winter. Keep on weeding and clearing away your summer bedding plants and trimming your hedges so they are neat enough for the winter. However, do try and resist the temptation of trimming them back too much. Leave some cover for the birds, squirrels and hedgehogs who rely on this cover to shelter them over the winter.

Compost

If you haven’t already done so, now’s as good a time as any to start a compost heap. After a hefty growing season, it’s really important to replenish the soil’s nutrients. Autumn produces a mass of garden waste that will help do just that. Build your compost heap in layers of green and brown waste e.g. grass clippings  on top of dead weeds. You can then add extra waste such as vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grains, tea leaves, straw and more; these will all help to bring a richness to your compost. Just make sure you never add diseased material as this will simply hibernate until you come to use it next year. Keep adding to your heap whenever you can and simply turn it over with a fork once a week or so to add some air.

Prepare your soil for next year

Nutrient-rich soil is what makes a garden great, so start adding compost, manure and as much organic matter now. The earlier you start the better, especially if your soil is heavy. The extra effort you put in now will make spring planting so much easier.

Bring tender plants into the warm

It’s time for your more delicate plants to be brought inside before the cold weather really takes hold. Pop them in your greenhouse, or bring them into your own house to keep them save until spring.

Save seeds

October is the perfect time to collect seeds for next year. Look around your garden for seed heads, then carefully shake the seeds out, pop them into a packet (or a sealed tin) and store them somewhere cool to dry. Don’t forget to add a label, unless you fancy a bit of mystery gardening. Once the seeds are completely dry, pop them into your refrigerator so they’re safe until it’s planting time.

Plant spring bulbs

Spring may seem a long way away but the earlier you start planting your bulbs the better. The soil is still warm and you’re giving your plants time to put some roots down before the cold weather really hits. This will help them fight wet and rot. Put your daffodils in first, and your crocuses, but leave tulips until a later date. Depth is very important when it comes to planting; too shallow and they won’t flower. Aim to plant the bulb three times its own depth, but if in doubt, plant deeper. For a really effective display, try clumping five or six bulbs together, in evenly spaced patches throughout your border.

So, that’s it for this month. Wrap up warm and head out to enjoy the vibrant colours while they’re still here. But before you go, share our monthly gardening tips on facebook and Google+ and subscribe to our newsletter.

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