With the Autumn upon us, the focus in the garden this month is preparing for the colder weather. Even as the leaves start changing to their beautiful autumnal colours, there are still plenty of jobs to keep busy with in the garden.
Plants and flowers
Our plants would have certainly enjoyed the hot weather we experienced last month. However, many perennial plants will soon finish flowering as the weather turns colder and the days shorter. Ensure that as perennial flowers finish flowering, you cut them back.
Cutting back the dead growth of plants helps prevent the spread of diseases and will keep your garden looking much tidier. However, if any plants have finished flowering but still have some healthy green foliage, wait to cut back until it is affected by frosts.
Removing too much from your garden will create desolate and empty spaces that look unappealing (especially when you're used to blooming flower displays). If you have a compost pile, consider adding soft-growth for nutrient-rich compost.
Annuals and bedding plants
October is also a perfect month to lift any annuals and safely store them over the winter to keep them safe from frost. If you don’t have anywhere suitable to keep such flowers safe, consider taking a cutting instead for planting next year.
Planting your spring bedding seeds this month is also a good idea. The soil will still be warm, providing an ideal environment for the seeds to survive and grow for flowering next year. Those with clay soil should plant seeds as quickly as possible.
Using a phosphate-based fertiliser will also help encourage root growth. Make sure you keep the soil well-watered after planting your seeds. Using a watering can with the sprinkle head is recommended to minimise disruption to the seeds.
For those with a veg garden, there are some jobs you get dug into this month as well:
- - Empty ready compost and mulch into the soil.
- - Cultivate the soil.
- - Cut down yellowing asparagus fern and the top of swollen artichokes.
- - Cover areas with polythene to keep away the rain.
- - Harvest runner beans and lift potatoes, carrots, and beetroot.
- - Plant spring cabbages, garlic, and autumn onions.
- - Remove yellowing leaves from winter brassicas, such as Brussels sprouts.
There are also some jobs for those growing fruit in the garden:
- - Pick ripe apple crops.
- - Keep new strawberry plants well-watered and clean.
- - Spray peaches and nectarines with a copper fungicide to prevent leaf curl.
- - Prune blackberries and blackcurrants.
- - Prepare soil for planting new fruit trees.
Despite the colder weather, October is the perfect month to plant some of your bulbs for flowering next year. Both tulip and lily bulbs are good examples of bulbs to get planted this month.
Tulip bulbs should be planted towards the end of the month up to mid-December. Tulip bulbs are more susceptible to diseases than others, so they are planted later. However, lily bulbs can be planted any time this month.
Both tulip and lily bulbs should be planted two to three times deeper than the bulb's depth. Make sure the soil is well prepared and is in a sunny or partially shaded position. Those with clay soil should add a grit layer to place the bulbs on top of.
You should also dig up and store bulbs from bulbous plants that have finished flowering. While bulbs are relatively trouble-free, they may fail to grow. Ensure to avoid damaging the bulb, remove any dirt and moisture and safely store it away for next year. Check out our guide to planting bulbs for some helpful tips and tricks.
During the autumn, your lawn growth will slow down due to the cooler weather. As a result, you should reduce the mowing of established lawns. It would also be best to heighten the cutting blade to prevent moss growth and weeds during the winter.
It is also recommended that you rake out the thatch on your lawn. Thatch is a dead layer of turf material that occurs naturally.
The best way to dethatch your lawn is to use a solid rake and manually rake the lawn. If your lawn has never (or rarely) been dethatched, this may take some elbow grease. Using a solid rake will get to the undergrowth of the lawn and is easier for dethatching.
Greenhouses are an ideal addition to any garden during the autumn and winter for keeping your plants safe. However, before storing away any plants for the winter, you should give your greenhouse a clean. Also, make sure there is sufficient ventilation to keep the air circulating.
It is also a good idea to insulate the lining of your greenhouse with bubble wrap. This will help retain heat during the cold weather to keep your plants healthy. It’s also the end of the season for tomatoes and aubergines, so if you are growing them inside, it’s time to pick the last harvest.
However, you can replace growing them with radishes, mustard, and cress. These are excellent to grow inside a greenhouse throughout the winter. A regular liquid feed will be required as the previous plants will have used up most of the nutrients in the soil.
Fallen leaves are inevitable in the autumn and can make a garden look messy and untidy. When scattered around your plants, it also encourages rot and the spread of diseases. Picking up the leaves as soon as possible helps prevent this.
But before you throw them in the bin, you can put fallen leaves to good use! Fallen leaves in the autumn can be used to make leafmould (which is just like compost). A result of decaying leaves, leafmould provides many benefits for your garden, including:
- - A rich carbon source for the garden.
- - Increases the organic material in the soil.
- - Increases the soil’s water-holding capacity.
- - Reduces the amount of watering your garden will require.
- - Supports beneficial fungi and micro-organisms.
Good leafmould will have an earthy aroma that feels crumbly and takes little time and effort. All you need to do is collect fallen leaves and put them inside a rubbish bag. Then you tie the bag up and leave it until next year. It’s as simple as that.
You should check inside the bag occasionally to check the moisture. If the leaves are dry, consider adding water. Shredding up the leaves before putting them into the bag can help speed up the decaying process. Hopefully, the leafmould should be ready for the following Spring.
Despite the cooler weather, there are still plenty of jobs around the garden. Taking the time to care for and look after your plants during this time will keep them healthy and ready for next year. You can enjoy a glorious garden again next year with healthy plants and some leafmould!