October Gardening Tips

Pots & Borders


    • Plant wallflowers out to provide a great display and fantastic scent in spring. These traditional bedding plants still provide a superb show and look fantastic when inter-planted with tall Darwin type tulips.
    • Sow sweet peas for the best and earliest blooms next! Sow them in extra deep pots or better still ‘Root Trainers’. Plants established now can be overwintered in a cold greenhouse, frame or glazed porch and will tolerate some frost. For the best plants, pinch out the leader when it gets about 10cm high and then select the strongest side shoot that grows and remove all the others. Plant these outside in well prepared soil in March.
    • Plant Winter Flowering Pansies and Violas out now but look for those that are already in flower or have buds showing. Those without buds now may not flower well until spring. Don’t forget to take precautions against slug and snail attack. Watch for greenfly in winter.


Trees, Shrubs, Roses, Conifers, etc.


    • Wrap the stems of Torbay palms, bananas and tender palms with fleece. Use their leaves to give added insulation to the all important growing tip inside. Put a generous wadge of straw in the tops of tree ferns and wrap their stems too if they are in a cold place.
    • Transplant evergreen shrubs. Dig them with a generous ball of soil to protect the roots and minimise disturbance. Some large roots may have to be cut but retain as many fibrous roots as possible. These roots are the important ones to get your plant re-established. Don’t be afraid to remove some leaves and reduce the top growth, it will help to get your plant going again. Add plenty of organic matter to the planting hole, water in thoroughly and continue to water until established. Shield from drying winds.
    • Reduce the height of bush roses by trimming them back by a third to a half their height. This will reduce the likelihood of the roots being damaged by the tops rocking around in the wind in winter gales. Clear up and burn any diseased leaves.
    • Plant new roses. If you can only replant where roses were before, put some ‘Rootgrow’ in the bottom of the planting hole. This contains beneficial mycorrhizae fungi which roses seem to need to do well. Roses are notorious for performing badly if planted into soil that has grown roses recently. ‘Rootgrow’ will help the newly planted roses overcome any difficulty they may have had in getting going.
    • Plant any sort of tree, shrub, climber, perennial, conifer, rockery plant and heather this month, as long as they are hardy. This is the very best month for planting!




    • Plant spring flowering bulbs as soon as you can. Tulips can be left until next month but the sooner you get the others planted, the better will be the show in spring!
    • Lift Dahlia roots and store them in a frost free place for winter. Cut the tops back to about 8-10 cm and stand them upside down for a few days to let the excess water drain out of the stems. Dust the roots with Yellow Sulphur to prevent rotting. If you live in a sheltered area or garden near the sea, you may be able to leave the roots in the ground after covering them with a 15 cm mulch of compost.
    • If your borders look full and there appears to be no room for bulbs now, pot them into largish pots so that they can be dropped into the gaps which will inevitably appear as winter approaches. Taller tulips and daffodils can easily be grown this way.
    • Maximise the display from pots by multi-layered planting – often called “lasagne planting” . Watch a short video from us on how to do that here.




    • Clean shade material off greenhouses now. Wash the glass to get the maximum light into your plants.
    • Lift and pot Pelargoniums and tender varieties of Fuchsias before the first frost gets them. Trim them back by about half and pot them into a good quality potting compost. Place in a greenhouse with frost protection or put them onto a well lit windowsill. Spray them with a fungicide or, better still, treat them with Compost Tea to keep them free of diseases.
    • For a sheltered place outside sow Vaila Lettuce which is a Little Gem type.


Wildlife & Pets


    • If badgers dig up tulip bulbs, plant them [the bulbs!] in a buried cage made of chicken wire.If they dig up your lawn, you will need to treat the grubs that they are feeding on the roots with a natural predator next year. This is best done between July and September. We can organise this for you.
    • Step up the bird feeding this month, a variety of feeds will bring a variety of birds to your garden.Don’t rush to cut off flower seed heads as these could provide free bird food.
    • Install a birdbath. Birds need to maintain their feathers as much in winter as summer.


Grow Your Own Food


    • Pull up runner bean plants and put them on the compost heap. Store the poles in a dry place for next year.
    • Sow Douce Provence pea now for the earliest crops of garden peas. These round seeded varieties are hardy and reliable. Expect some losses when sowing at this time of year so sow extra seed to compensate. If your soil is a wet and sticky clay it may pay to sow the seed into a length of rainwater gutter filled with good potting compost. If you line the bottom with newspaper you should find that the young plants and compost slide neatly out into a shallow trench in the veg plot and the paper soon rots away.
    • Pick maincrop varieties of apples and pears. Choose only the unblemished sound fruits to store, the others should be discarded or eaten straight away. Apples can be stored quite well in ordinary clear freezer bags. Fill them up and then make a few holes in the sides with a sharp point [take care not to jab the fruit]. Fold the top over and invert the bag to let it sit upside down covering the opening in a cool building away from direct light. Check the fruit regularly and remove any that are ripe or rotten. This way fruit can be stored easily well into winter but they must be varieties that keep well. If in doubt ask a nurseryman or fruit grower. Pears are better stored individually and watched carefully for the rapid ripening process they have.
    • Sow mustard & cress and pea shoots for a nutritious salad or garnish. Grow them on a windowsill in damp kitchen roll lined trays or punnets. Sow each thickly but sow the mustard 2 days later. Cover the seeds with paper until the seeds are 25 mm [1″] high then remove the covering. Keep moist by regular watering. This is a good way to get young children interested in gardening and produces quick results for impatient minds!
    • Aquadulce Broad Beans can be sown now. This autumn sowing will produce the earliest crop and invariably avoids attack from blackfly. If your plot is windy you may wish to sow a shorter variety like The Sutton but this variety is not for cold spots. Locally, it is best to sow late October or around Bonfire night.
    • Remove any ‘mummified’ fruits from apples and plum trees. These will have been infected with ‘Brown Rot’ and the spores on these dried up fruits, often stuck together in clusters, could infect next years crop if left on the tree or the ground underneath.
    • Plant all forms of fruit trees, bushes and canes this month; this is the best time for planting!


Bits & Pieces


    • Clear up runner bean plants and put them on the compost heap. If left in the soil they may carry diseases over to the next year. Store the poles in a dry place for next year.
    • Sweep up leaves regularly, don’t let them lie on your grass and spoil it. There is no justification for putting these out with the rubbish, you can turn this valuable and free resource into good [and free] soil improver by adding some Garotta compost activator and water and allowing them to rot down. This can even be done in a plastic sack with a few pinprick holes in it.
    • Wrap tender plants with a tent made of a tripod of bamboo canes and a covering of horticultural fleece.


Soils, Mulching, Weed Control, etc.


    • If your soil is “heavy” and has a high percentage of clay and/or silt content you can improve its structure and make it easier to work by digging in some Vitax Clay Breaker. This will stick the clay particles together and improve the structure of the soil permanently. Digging in lots of organic matter helps too.
    • If you are trying to grow lime hating plants and your soil is naturally alkaline [limey], add Sulphate of Iron to the soil and gently hoe it in now. This will lower the pH of the soil and enable you to grow such beautiful plants as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and the summer flowering group of heathers. Don’t exceed the recommended dose, it is better to make this an annual routine.


Ponds and Bog Plants


    • Erect a net over your pond to prevent falling leaves from trees and shrubs getting into the water and increasing the nutrient levels when they breakdown. They may also deprive the fish of oxygen as they decompose.
    • Remove dead leaves from pond plants as they die back.


Lawns, hedges, paths and drives


    • Treat slippery paths with moss and algae killer such as Patio Magic or the organic Algon alternative.
    • Tidy up hedges and renovate those that have got out of shape. Some varieties will tolerate this but others will not, if in doubt check with us first!
    • Treat lawns with an autumn feed and moss killer.
    • For just moss control we recommend M O Bacter which has a biological mode of action.