By October, autumn is in full swing, with colours changing, daylight shortening and the first frosts on the way. A crisp, bright, autumn day is the perfect time to begin tidying up in the flower beds, vegetable patch and greenhouse.
- Continue cutting back herbaceous perennials that have finished, or, alternatively, leave dead foliage to encourage the overwintering of beneficial insects.
- Lift and divide any herbaceous perennials that have become congested. This will keep them healthy and looking their best come next spring.
- It is a good time to tidy, clean and disinfect the greenhouse to ensure that any pests and diseases are eliminated, and to maximise light levels.
- Invest in some horticultural fleece and protect half-hardy plants when the overnight temperatures drop, or bring them into the greenhouse. Bring tender plants such as Cannas indoors.
- Lift Dahlia and Begonia tubers and Gladioli corms and store in a dry, frost free place over winter. Wash the tubers and corms clear of soil and allow them to dry thoroughly before placing them in pots and covering them with dry compost. Don’t forget to remove any dead foliage before storing.
- Sweep up fallen leaves beneath trees as they can harbour fungal spores and also provide shelter for slugs and snails. Remove any diseased fruits from branches or the ground.
- Mulch your herbaceous borders using manure, bark chips, leaf mould, spent compost or seaweed. Apply a layer between 5cm – 7.5 cm (2-3 inches), taking care not to touch the stems of trees or woody plants, which could cause them to soften and increase their vulnerability to disease. Mulching will protect the roots of plants during cold winter weather, tidy the appearance of beds and borders and improve the soil.
- Plant garlic in the vegetable plot: as garlic requires a chilling period, late autumn or early winter is the best time to get it into the ground. Choose a sunny, well drained site and dig in plenty of organic matter before planting each clove 2.5cm (1 inch) below the ground. Allow 15cm (6 inches) between cloves and place rows 30cm (12 inches) apart.
- When clearing bean and pea plants, cut the spent plants close to the ground, leaving the roots in the ground. Legume roots are beneficial nitrogen fixers and will increase nitrogen levels if left to rot in the soil.
- Cut back the fruiting canes of summer raspberries and tie in new green canes which will fruit next year.
- Harvest pumpkins before the frosts arrive or protect with horticultural fleece.
(Blog post written by Jo Chamberlain)