October Gardening Tips
As the temperatures drop, you will find that you need to mow the lawn less and less frequently. Always make sure that you only mow when the surface of the lawn is relatively dry or else you may cause compaction and damage the turf grasses, making them more prone to diseases and increasing the likelihood of poor drainage problems in the months to come.
Both rainfall and leaf fall start to increase rapidly now, bringing an increased risk of clogged gutters and downpipes. Place some mesh over the end of the down pipe which takes water from roofs into the water butt or the drains. This should catch fallen leaves, so preventing it clogging up the butt or the drains.
If you plan to plant up areas with roses, or even just a single rose, you should now be able to order them from specialist rose nurseries, who you will find have a very good selection of excellent quality plants. Specialist nurseries have the best range you could ask for and at this time of year they start to sell them ‘bare root’, making them great value in all ways! Most have information-packed catalogues you can browse on the internet, so get ordering.
Harvest the last of your outdoor crops of courgettes and then remove the plants promptly. Remember any that are showing signs of powdery mildew or virus infection on the leaves can be safely composted with no risk to next year’s crops as both of these infections should be killed off in the heat generated in a domestic compost heap or bin.
Plants in conservatories and greenhouses are now likely to be slowing down their growth so, with the exception of those which you grow to produce flowers during winter, you should drastically reduce the amount of water they receive and also stop feeding them. Give them occasional checkovers to ensure that you spot any pests or diseases promptly.
Any unreliably hardy varieties of summer patio plants like Agapanthus and Osteospermum should be moved into a greenhouse, conservatory, porch or other protected place to provide shelter from winter cold and wet. In cooler areas and if weather is forecast to be particularly cold, it is worth covering each container with a fleece jacket or several layers of fleece too.
As soon as the tops of your dahlias have been hit by the first frost, you should carefully lift them and put them into store for the winter months. After clearing off lose soil from the tubers and removing any faded top growth, the dahlias can be stored in trays of horticultural sand, sawdust or dry compost in a cool, but frost-free well ventilated place. If you have a really free-draining soil and live in a milder part of the country you may be able to get away with leaving them in the ground until next year, but it’s a risk I couldn’t take on my heavy clay soil!
October is the best month to plant tulips. Unlike most other spring flowering bulbs, if planted any earlier they are at risk from ‘tulip fire’, a horrible infection which causes the foliage to wither, distort and discolour and often wrecks the flowers too. So get some lovely tulip bulbs planted some time this month, making sure that you plant them in soil not used for tulips for at least two years.
Toadstools which appear in the lawn can make your lawn look a mess and even if they do not damage the grass in the way that fairy rings do, you may still wish to control them. There are no chemicals available, but regular brushing off, preferably before the caps of the toadstools have opened, will help to keep them at bay.