Gardening in October

October’s weather is usually very unpredictable. We could experience the first severe frost, or it may remain mild – we may even be blessed with an Indian Summer!

Strong and cold winds can be expected in some regions – so it may be time to batten down the hatches! Keep an eye on the weather and treat your plants and garden accordingly.

Things to do this month

  • Lift fuchsias, pelargoniums and all the other half-hardy bedding perennials for overwintering frost free.
    Lift tender summer-flowering bulbs, such as gladioli, and keep them in a cool shed or similar until planting out again next year.
  • Tidy up beds and borders, clearing away dead and dying leaves.
  • Cut down the old and dead flower stems of herbaceous perennials to ground level.
  • Don’t panic if you didn’t plant your spring-flowering bulbs last month – October is an excellent month to plant them.
  • Plant up containers with winter-interest plants to give you some cheery winter colour.
  • Raise all patio containers on to bricks or pot feet to avoid them sitting in water in autumn and winter.
  • Sow a hardy overwintering variety of broad beans for an early crop next year.
  • Plant autumn or Japanese onion sets for a crop in early to mid-summer next year.
  • Plant garlic cloves, but make sure it is a variety suitable for autumn planting.
  • Although there’s lots to do in the garden in autumn, don’t overdo it and take frequent rests.
  • Clean garden furniture before you store it away for the winter.
  • Give the barbecue a thorough cleaning before putting it away for the winter.
  • Start digging over the soil in the vegetable patch if you garden on heavy clay soil.
    Lift and divide old, unproductive crowns of rhubarb and replant in well-prepared soil.
  • Move citrus trees and other houseplants into a frost-free greenhouse or conservatory for the winter.
  • If bush roses have finished flowering, prune back their stems by up to half to help prevent wind rock.
    Layering is a good way to propagate many climbers and lax-stemmed shrubs, such as magnolias and rhododendrons.
  • Take hardwood cuttings of various shrubs, such as dogwoods, philadelphus, flowering currant and forsythia.
  • Lift and divide large clumps of herbaceous perennials that didn’t flower well. This will improve flowering and produce more plants.
  • Check tree ties and stakes are secure, especially on newly planted trees.
  • Feed wild birds with high-energy bird foods to help them through the autumn and winter.
  • When water temperatures drop below 21C (70F), feed fish with easier-to-digest, wheat germ foods.
  • Clear ponds of excess pond weed and blanket weed.
  • Cover over ponds with netting to prevent leaves from falling into the water.
  • Give tools a thorough clean before you put them away for winter.
  • A good pruning saw is the best choice for large pruning jobs.
  • Cut sunflower seed heads and leave them out for garden birds to feed on.
  • When tidying up old flower stems, leave those that produce seeds for wild birds to feed on.
  • If you didn’t get around to all the autumn lawn care jobs in September, they can be done this month.
    Kill moss with a suitable mosskiller – only rake out dead moss.
  • Rake and scarify the grass to remove dead grass, thatch and other debris.
  • Aerate compacted soil – especially clay soil – with a garden fork or a hollow-tine aerator.
  • Feed the lawn with an autumn lawn food to build up its strength and harden it for the onset of colder weather.
  • This is a great time to start new lawns from seed or turf.
  • Repair bare areas or those with a thin grass covering using grass seed or a lawn patching kit.
  • Remove and destroy apples, pears and plums affected with brown rot disease to prevent it spreading.
  • Rake up and destroy fallen leaves affected by disease, particularly black spot and rust.
  • Slugs and snails may become more active in cooler, damper weather – so protect plants with suitable controls.
  • As perennial weeds start to die back, this is a good time to give them a final application of weedkiller.