October – season of mellow fruitfulness
October is often a mild month but it can change quickly with the occasional frost by the end. It is a good idea to get tender plants ready to be brought under cover at short notice. Pelargoniums can get mouldy very quickly so when you repot them to bring under cover remove all old flowers and any leaves that have died or are showing signs of damage. Fuchsias are often at their best and will tolerate an isolated frost if in a sheltered spot so you can leave them until later in the month to bring in. Just enjoy the flowers for now. J
With Autumn comes leaves! . Fallen leaves need to be cleared from beds to help prevent fungal diseases and if they are left on lawns the grass will turn yellow and die. If you have room to make it leafmould is a great soil conditioner. make a cage from 4 posts with chicken wire wrapped around them. Pile in the leaves and leave to rot! Whilst the ground is still dry enough to mow use the mower to pick them up; just set it a bit higher. The advantage of this, apart from being less strenuous, is it chops the leaves up so they rot down more quickly. Once the ground and leaves are really wet though raking is better to get them out of the grass. It is also good for your lawn and your waistline too! Remember to regularly switch sides with the rake if you don’t want to end up with backache and a stiff neck.
The grass is not growing so quickly now and by the end of the month will not be being mown as frequently. If you keep your lawn very short over the summer pop the blades on your mower up a notch as it will overwinter better if slightly longer. At the beginning of the month it will probably still be warm enough to sow grass seed and turf can be laid to repair patches.
It is bulb planting time . The thought of spring bulbs is a cheering one. If your soil is very wet and heavy over the winter plant tulip bulbs on a layer of grit to help minimise rot. To ensure your bulbs flower for more than one year make sure they are planted deeply enough. a major cause of bulb failure is being planted too shallow and too close together.
For a bit of very early colour pop a few bulbs in a pot. Let them have a period of cold then bring them indoors. They need the cold bit first to get them growing. Once they have flowered they can be planted outside to die-back ready for the following year.
Early October is the last chance to divide herbaceous perennials before they die-back for the winter. Clear the old growth from plants that have finished. Once the bed has been cleared and weeded mulch the bed with well-rotted manure or compost. It will help protect sleeping plants from winter cold and also improve your soil structure. There is no need to dig it in; just spread on top of the soil and let the worms do the work!
Lastly, keep an eye on any tender plants as we could start to get some frosts so have the fleece handy!