Gardening Advice - October
Our resident plant expert, Phil McCann has some top tips as you get out in the garden this October.
Top September Gardening Tips:
- Cut back perennials
- Prune climbing roses
- Lay turf
- Plant spring cabbages
- Plant bulbs
- Lift dahlias
- Plant shrubs
- Clear leaves
- Remove greenhouse shading
Overview of October:
October is proper autumn time. No Indian summers or unusual weather patterns dragging up warm air from the Azores. No - just good old-fashioned colour, windy weather, leaves falling and the promise of winter. Autumn looks, smells and sounds special. And that’s because it is.
Cut back perennials:
If you like a tidy garden, snip back all the dead growth from your perennial plants. This reduces any diseases from getting into the crowns of plants and keeps everything looking tidy. However, many birds feast on the seeds of perennials so leaving a few stems is also a good idea. Perhaps a halfway house between the two is best?
Prune climbing roses:
For the best displays next year start pruning climbing roses now. This isn't your main pruning session - that comes in December - but now is a great time to shorten those long, whippy growths down to 15 cm or so. It will stop any damage when the winds get hold of the branches and rock them around causing tears and breaks. Cut the prunings into small pieces or shred branches and put into the compost heap.
A simple task - mow! Mow your lawn on a high setting to keep everything shipshape and effectively gather up the first of the falling leaves. If temperatures stay above 7C or so your lawn will continue to grow. If cooler everything stops and you know that you’ve done your lawn work for the year.
The soil is moist, the soil is still warm and you have prepared well. 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.
Plant spring cabbages:
Solid heads of delicious cabbage start now. Plant established seedlings into firmed ground and make sure you net over the plants to prevent pigeon damage. They will grow until the coldest weather, sit quite happily in the snow and ice and then finish growing next spring. Netting is the key to success.
You started last month and still have plenty to go at - daffodils, crocus and hyacinths all go into the ground this month. Plant them pointy end up, three times as deep as they are tall and cover with soil. And that’s it! Next spring will be so colourful thanks to your October efforts.
Dahlias die when they have been frosted. Once the leaves and stems are brown, you need to lift the tubers. These could be large and resemble potatoes. Cut off the leaves and stems; plunge a fork into the soil a distance away from the centre of the plant and waggle it about. Lift the whole lot, brush off any excess soil and place the tuber in a box lined with newspaper. Place in a dark, frost free place (a shed or garage). It will dry out and become dormant, ready for planting next spring.
Same as laying turf, the conditions are ripe for planting shrubs. Plant at the same depth as they are growing in their pots and water all new plantings in well. Firm the plants in after a week or so because, as the soil settles, and roots can become loose. Roots will grow all winter (if mild) and plants will get off to a superb growing start next spring.
Clear leaves as they fall and don't wait for everything to come down until you get the rake out. Leaves on lawns stifle growth and stop light from getting to the plants. Dead leaves falling into plants can encourage rot. Keep on top of the game and reap the rewards later.
Remove greenhouse shading:
Strawberry plants send out runners. These umbilical cords have new plants spaced along them - peg these new plants into the soil or better still, into small pots of compost plunged beneath where they would ordinarily touch the soil. Wait for roots to appear and then cut either side of the plant. Voila - you have a new plant in a pot ready to grow on and re-plant. It’s a great way to keep your strawberry beds vibrant.