October Garden Tips
One of the great satisfactions of gardening is the ability to make your own plants from propagation. With autumn drawing on, make sure you get your cuttings sorted out earlier on in the month. Plants like fuchsias, geraniums and so on should be potted up and put somewhere safe before the frosts begin. Cuttings of alpines that have been done earlier should either be planted out where they are to grow, or potted on and kept in a frame until the spring. If you are keeping them in pots, it is best to plunge the pots to their rims in sand, ashes or soil. (Don’t forget to protect them from slug and snail predation!)
Plant out wallflowers, polyanthus, Sweet Williams, foxgloves and other similar biennials for a good display in the spring. It is always tempting to hang on to the summer flowering plants ‘for a few more days’, but if you want your spring flowers to bloom you really need to chuck out the old and put in the new. The reason for this is that spring bedding plants need to have time to get established before the winter weather sets in, otherwise they will not do as well.
After the first frosts have browned off the tops of dahlias, cut them down to within 12 cm (9”) of ground level. Mark the variety with a label, and lift the tubers so that they can be dried under cover and then stored in a frost-free place for the winter. I have tried this over the years and never have much success. It might be worthwhile just leaving them in the ground and covering the spot with chipped bark or ash, remembering to mark the spot with the name of the variety. Be warned though, if we do have a prolonged cold period in the winter you could lose the tubers in the ground as well, so you pays your money and takes your choice.
Once the ground has been cleared it is a good idea to break it up. If you have heavy clay (as most of us do round here) the best way is to use a spade and to leave it with large clods that will break down over the winter with weathering. If you break the soil down too much at this time of year, it will just become a ‘pudding’ and you will have to start all over again in the spring. As my wise neighbour always told me “Leave the soil all knobbly, boy”.
Spring cabbage should be planted out while the ground is still workable, keep up a succession of winter lettuce like ‘Winter Density’. Cut remaining marrows, squashes and pumpkins. Put them away in a dry, frost-proof place. Clear away all the pea and bean haulm, then dig over the vacated ground.
If you are going to plant new fruit trees and shrubs, the best time is in November, but October is the time to prepare the site. The soil should be well dug and manured, this will be much more difficult in November.
Towards the end of the month strawberry beds should be tidied up. Remove all dead, diseased or damaged foliage, as well as the weeds.