October sees trees look glorious with their leaves changing colour and remember all that wonderful leafmould that can be made from the fallen leaves. The weather may suddenly change and the threat of the first frosts are not far off.
Take hardwood cuttings of plants such as Rosa, Cotinus, Salix and Forsythia.
Check softwood and semi-ripe cuttings taken earlier in the season. They may need potting on, or selective removal of individual plants that have succumbed to rots (in order to prevent cross-infection).
Berries, fruits and seeds can be gathered from trees and shrubs, once ripe, for immediate sowing. Colutea (bladder senna), Laburnum, Morus (mulberry) and Sorbus (rowan) are all suitable examples.
October is an ideal time for moving and planting trees, shrubs and climbers, as well as for hedge planting. The ground still has some of the summer warmth to aid roots establishing.
Bare-root hedging will be available from the end of the month – the perfect choice whenever large numbers are needed.
Pruning and training:
Trim deciduous hedges to keep them looking tidy over the winter.
Prune bush roses now, if not done already, as reducing their height will prevent wind rock. These plants are generally shallow-rooted and can become loose in the soil if buffeted by strong winds.
Climbing roses should be pruned now if not done last month.
Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring such as Buddleia David, Cornus alba, and Lavatera, can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and to neaten their appearance.
Regular mowing stops this month, and the cutting height should be raised to a minimum 2cm (1in) for the last cut or two. Also, if spiking and top dressing or autumn feeding have not already been done, then now is the time. Autumn lawn feeds are low in nitrogen, so discouraging lush green growth that would only succumb to cold and diseases over the winter months.
Rake fallen leaves off lawns before they block out light and air penetration to the grass.
Lawn repairs should also be undertaken this month:- levelling out bumps and hollows, re-seeding bare patches, removing coarse grasses, etc.
Brush away fallen leaves and worm casts.
Plant asparagus, garlic, onion and shallot sets.
Sow hardy peas and peas for shoots in salads, hardy lettuce, broad beans, cabbages, cauliflower, Mizuna, Pak choi, Rocket, Landcress, Perpetual spinach, Mustard leaf, Sorrel and Endive.
Divide and replant perennial herbs.
Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts. Pumpkins will be ready for harvesting towards the end of the month. When cutting your ripe pumpkins and squash off the plants for storing over winter, leave a few inches of stalk still attached: this helps prevent the crown rotting in storage, so the fruits last longer.
Clear away tender crops once the harvest slows and add them to the compost bin.
Overwintering green manures such as Winter tares, grazing rye and Italian ryegrass can be sown once the area is cleared and will produce abundant material by April.
If the weather is dry, keep watering early-flowering shrubs such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, so that flower buds are initiated successfully for blooms next spring. Use recycled or stored rainwater wherever possible.
Check tree ties and stakes before winter gales cause damage.
Place fallen leaves on the compost heap or into separate pens for rotting down into leafmould. Shredding leaves first with a shredder or mower will help them break down quicker.
Cut back perennials that have died down.
Check greenhouse heaters are in working order.
Move tender plants, including aquatic ones into the greenhouse before the first frosts arrive.
Protect plants that are too large to move with horticultural fleece and insulate pots with bubble wrap.
Containers and baskets can now be replaced with winter bedding such as cyclamen and pansies.