October! Jobs to do in the garden
It's important to enjoy our time outdoors in whatever kind of garden we have and so when it comes to those tasks that need tackling each month, I think the best and most motivating approach is 'little and often.'
Take plenty of tea breaks, stop to listen to the birds singing in the late autumn sun and make sure you've stocked up on your favourite biscuits to help sustain you through what we think are six of the key tasks you need to make sure you stay on top of this month before the cold of early winter really sets in.
1. The soil is starting to cool down and this is the time to begin to cut back on flowering plants that may have been damaged by the chilling autumn weather. That said, my golden rule is if something is still looking good leave well alone, you can come back to it next month and carry on enjoying its beauty.
2. You need to pull up and compost those annuals you planted earlier in the year for their bright and gaudy splashes of summer colour and exuberance. And if you have a greenhouse, this is also a good time to plant sweet peas in pots to grow slowly over winter so that next summer, you can fill your home with the heady scent of one of my favourite cottage garden plants.
3. And once you've finished pulling up, you need to start planting - Spring bulbs that is. Lots of garden centres start sending out their brochures with bulk discounts at the end of September; you need to be planting daffodils, alliums, fritillaries, tulips and camassias - all beautiful flowers that will reward your efforts now when they bloom next Spring.
4. Think about investing in some really good organic composting material to give your soil a much-needed boost over winter. This is especially important when you are planting (bulbs) or transplanting more mature plants and is a task that should become second nature to you.
5. You will need to start to take care again now of your more tender plants. Move container plants to dry and hopefully frost-free areas and protect tender plants that cannot be moved to warmer places with a covering of dry straw secured in place with the special fabric you can buy to peg down and protect them over winter.
6. Finally, with all this clearing and mulching and sweeping up of dead, discarded and rotted plants and plant parts, you can give your compost heap a good boost but make sure you are not trying to compost plants like fennel or verbascum - both of which seed prolifically and both of which, if you are not careful, will sprout up, unwanted, in parts of the garden you want something else to grow in. Also take the time to cut the woodiest of stems that you are cutting out into smaller pieces which will further help accelerate the composting process.
Tony Richards - MD