Garden Tips for October

Now that summer is well and truly past us and the nights are drawing in  it is time to give the garden a general tidy before the winter sets in.  Growth will have slowed in the garden and deciduous trees and shrubs will be shedding their leaves, these will need to raked off lawns and cleared from paths and water features.  Rotting leaves make a great mulch and are full of nutrients so don’t waste any – add them to your borders or pile them into a corner of the garden so wildlife can shelter in them over the winter.

Continue to cut back perennials as they finish flowering and fill any gaps with winter flowering plants like Pansies and Polyanthus along with some spring flowering bulbs to brighten up the garden over winter and in to the spring.

Buddleja and Lavatera shrubs should be cut back by about half their height now to avoid damage from strong winds but the leave the hard pruning until spring to give some protection.   Also prune climbing roses and tie in any loose growth.

Reduce the frequency of mowing your lawn and set the blades higher as if grass is cut too short in Autumn it will weaken and be prone to infestation from weeds and moss.

Trees and shrubs that have outgrown their space or that you simply want to relocate somewhere different can be moved now.  First dig the new hole adding plenty of organic matter and then carefully dig around the root system of the tree or shrub taking care not to damage too many roots, then gently lift to the new location and water in well after planting.  As long as the soil is workable new trees, shrubs, roses, hedges, can all be planted now, giving them time to establish a root system before the depths of winter.  Most are available bare rooted from mid November through to March resulting in less costly plants.  When bare rooted plants arrive place them in water for a few hours before planting.  If planting is delayed by more that a couple of days, just dig a trench and cover the roots with soil.

Perennials that have outgrown their space, become congested or died in the centre can be dug up, divided and replanted.  Cut back the top growth before digging up the whole plant.  Discard the centre and cut the rest into good size pieces, ensuring some roots are included in each piece and replant in groups of three of more where you want them to flower.

Autumn is the ideal time to redesign your borders.  You can still see this years growth on perennials so you know where they are, once they die back its easy to forget.  Take a critical look at your borders and decide what changes you should make.  Think about colour schemes and plant structure, trying to ensure colour and interest through the year.  What didn’t work this year and what effect do you want to create  for next year.  You may want to change the whole border or just make a few minor changes or additions.

In the vegetable garden lift any remaining carrots and potatoes and pick the last of your summer vegetables and fruit before the first frost.  Tidy away any plant debris to prevent the spread of disease.  Don’t harvest parsnip until after the first frost to improve the flavour.   Greenhouses can be cleared of summer produce and filled with tender plants to over winter and clean the glass to let in as much light as possible.

Start to refill bird feeders regularly now as birds natural food supplies will be starting to diminish as the cold sets in.    If you can spare the time  why not provide some shelter from the cold for wildlife in your garden.  A pile of logs, old drain pipes and some plant debris in a corner will make all the difference.