Our top 10 gardening tips for October
It's October. The weather is cooling down, the leaves are turning orange, and we've all busted out our autumn wardrobes.
There’s also plenty to be getting on with in the garden. Although, it can be difficult to know where to start with the changing of the season – particularly if you’re new to the horticultural world.
To help, we’ve pulled together our top 10 gardening tips for October.
You can either click one of the links below to be taken directly to a specific tip, or you can scroll down to read each of our suggestions in order.
- Clear your paths and lawn of leaves
- Make your own leaf mould
- Invest in a fire feature
- If you have tender plants that can be brought indoors, do so
- Protect your outdoor tender plants that can’t come inside
- Give wildlife a helping hand and feed the birds
- Plant bulbs and bedding
- Start mulching
- Plant garlic
- Prepare your greenhouse for autumn and winter
1. Clear your paths and lawn of leaves
It's crucial to clean up autumn’s fallen leaves for a number of reasons.
The most important one is that fallen leaves can make patios and paths slick and dangerous to walk on. You don’t want to risk a fall just because you didn’t keep on top of your autumn jobs!
Also, the light is blocked where the leaves land on your lawn, which can result in the grass dying off if it is covered for an extended period of time.
However, you don't need to clean up the leaves that fall on your garden's borders as they serve as a mulch, as well as a shelter for overwintering animals.
2. Make your own leaf mould
Collecting fallen leaves will provide you with the opportunity to make leaf mould, which is a great soil improver.
All you need to do is place the leaves in a black polythene bag, poke a few holes in it for air, and wait about 18 months for the decomposition process to take place.
Another (and more aesthetically pleasing!) option is to make a leaf bin.
To do so, follow these steps:
- Hammer four wooden fencing stakes into the ground in a square shape.
- Wrap chicken wire all the way around the frame and fix it in place with some wire.
- Fill the bin and, again, wait 18 months.
3. Invest in a fire feature
Your garden patio will benefit greatly from the addition of a fire feature, whether that be a fire pit, bowl, or chiminea.
They create a lovely warmth that will let you entertain guests outside as the temperature drops and the sun starts to go down earlier.
Fire bowls and fire pits are similar to each other. The only difference is that pits can be built into the ground itself – although this isn’t always the case and often the two terms are used interchangeably. They are typically made from durable metals like copper or stainless steel, are stand-mounted, and are designed to be portable. For decorative purposes, some have a vintage rust effect, while others have a sleek, contemporary appearance.
Chimineas are a little different. In the past, they were used to cook and heat homes; in some isolated areas of the world, they still are. Nowadays, chimineas are used as lovely garden accents to give outdoor spaces a distinctive feel. They are also useful for keeping you and your visitors warm when the weather is a little chilly.
4. If you have tender plants that can be brought indoors, do so
In order to survive, tender plants – also known as semi-hardy or half-hardy plants – usually need to be protected or brought indoors when frosts begin. And unfortunately, frosts can start as early as October in the UK!
In case you’re unsure if you have any tender plants, popular varieties include fuschia, dahlias, pelargoniums, tree ferns, canna lilies, begonias, and some succulents.
Evergreen plants, like pelargoniums, will continue to grow during October, so they will need to be placed in a bright, frost-free environment, like a greenhouse or conservatory.
Fuchsias and cannas, among other plants that lose their leaves or die completely, can be kept in the dark; a frost-free shed or garage is the best place for this.
5. Protect your outdoor tender plants that can’t come inside
It’s not always possible to bring your large tender plants indoors, so you’ll need to frost-proof them.
Doing so is important, as a single night of frost has the potential to kill your plants if they’re delicate!
Garden fleece is excellent for shielding plants from frost. The term "frost blanket" is frequently used to describe these kinds of plant protection covers. It is simply draped over plants, much like wrapping a plant, and fastened with string. Straw can also be used.
Also, don’t forget to check the covering is still in place after windy weather!
6. Give wildlife a helping hand and feed the birds
By piling up some leaves in a secluded area or creating a pile of old logs, you can provide wildlife with a place to hide as it gets colder.
If you build a bonfire, enclose it with a wire fence to keep animals out. Additionally, when lighting it, do so from one side to give any animals that might have gotten inside a way out.
Also, consider getting your hands on a bird feeder to encourage some feathered friends to pay your garden a visit.
Make sure to clean your bird tables and feeders frequently with hot, soapy water and a stiff brush. We’d recommend doing so once every two weeks, making sure to get rid of any food particles and droppings. Doing so is a good idea because birds are vulnerable to several nasty diseases that can accumulate on dirty surfaces!
One final bird-based tip: to teach the birds visiting your outside space where to gather, ensure that the feeders are never empty and place them in the same location each time you replenish them.
7. Plant bulbs and bedding
Planting bulbs now will help you be prepared for colour next year.
The best time to plant summer-flowering lilies is in October, and there is still time to get spring blooms as well.
Plan ahead for colour by visiting the garden centre to purchase bedding plants like wallflowers, violas, sweet Williams, and forget-me-nots for the winter and early spring. To get the best selection of colours and varieties, it pays to arrive early. Wallflowers with bare roots are a classic option for spring colour.
As garden centres try to make room for their Christmas displays, you might find some good deals!
As soon as you get the plants home, plant them.
8. Start mulching
Autumn is a good time to cover bare ground with a mulch, such as garden compost, to trap the moisture in the soil.
Before you start, make sure to get rid of any weeds, and the mulch should help stop the growth of new ones.
Organic-based mulches will also slowly decompose and benefit the soil.
We’d recommend putting the mulch down in a layer that is 5cm thick.
9. Plant garlic
The start of autumn is a great time to plant your garlic. This is because most varieties benefit from a colder temperature during the initial stage of their growth.
Although you may read elsewhere to plant garlic in spring, doing so is likely to lead to a much smaller yield.
Rather than sowing seeds as with most other vegetables, individual garlic cloves are planted.
Apart from occasional watering during dry spells (unlikely in October!), routine weeding, and snipping off any budding flowers, garlic is typically trouble-free and requires little maintenance.
Garlic prefers a sunny location that is well-drained. Plants may become more susceptible to disease if the surrounding foliage is humid or the soil is wet, especially if they are planted in autumn.
With the tip 2.5 cm below the soil surface, place the cloves 15 cm apart.
You should expect to be able to harvest your October planted garlic by mid-summer.
10. Prepare your greenhouse for autumn and winter
It's a good idea to remove any shading from your greenhouse as the light levels drop. Whilst shading paint can be removed straight away, netting can be stored for the following year.
Insulate your greenhouse to prepare for the upcoming cold weather. Garden centres sell bubble plastic by the roll.
Drawing pins can be used to fasten it to greenhouses with wooden frames. For metal frames, you’ll be able to find the required specialised fixings in your local garden centre.
We hope that you enjoyed this month's tips and found them useful!
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We'll see you this time next month for our November gardening tips.