October can bring a range of wonderful colours to your garden as autumn foliage really starts to take hold. The night frosts and sunny days bring out the intensity of the colours in the leaves of trees and shrubs.
This month is a great time to start planting trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials, while the soil is still warm enough for the roots to establish before the cold months of winter set in. It is also a good time to move any existing evergreen shrubs due to there being less need for water. For any deciduous trees and shrubs, it is worth waiting until next month when they will be dormant, but it is worth getting the ground prepared for them to be planted.
This month is a great time to plant any evergreen hedging but if not done now wait until the spring whereas deciduous hedging can be planted all through the winter period so long as the ground is not frozen. Prepare a trench 3ft wide along the length of the proposed hedge and dig in plenty of organic matter along with some Bonemeal.
Deciduous hedging such as beech is usually planted about 18” apart whereas evergreen conifers would generally be about 3ft apart depending on their size when planting. Plant firmly to the same depth as they were and water in well and continue to check for water during their first year.
Plant Tulip bulbs towards the end of this month, although you can continue to plant these as late as mid-December if the weather allows. Plant them to a depth of 3 times the size of the bulb and on heavy clay soils put a layer of grit in the base of the hole.
Lily bulbs can be planted during this and next month. Plant them straight into the ground or into pots using multi-purpose compost on a layer of grit. Despite their delicate looking flowers, they are quite hardy and can be kept outdoors.
Continue planting containers with Winter and Spring bedding plants and bulbs. The sooner this is done the sooner the plants will establish before winter sets in. You don’t have to limit your choice of plants in containers to just bedding plants. Many evergreen shrubs will provide colour and interest whatever the time of year. Variegated shrubs are particularly good for brightening up a dull corner. There are many types but things like Euonymus, Skimmia, Sedum, Pieris, Variegated Box and various forms of dwarf Conifer all make excellent choices.
Other plants to brighten up containers include hardy cyclamen and Heathers which also come with a wide range of foliage colours.
All these combined with the vast array of Pansy and Violas will give a bright display from now right into early summer next year.
In the Vegetable garden pick the last of the runner beans then cut the plants from their supports and compost them. Runner beans like broad beans and peas, return valuable nitrogen to the soil and so it is worth leaving the roots and digging them into the soil. This area can then be planted next year with leafy Brassica crops which will benefit from the extra nitrogen in the soil.
Finish lifting maincrop potatoes, leaving them on the surface to dry out before storing in paper or hessian sacks, making sure no light gets to them.
Continue lifting carrots and beetroot and store in boxes, covering with sand or used compos. Again, these are best kept in a cool, dark, frost free place.
Sow broad beans outside by taking a trench out about 2” deep with a spade or draw hoe. Space the beans 6” apart and cover soil back over. Cover over with a cloche or fleece, not necessarily to protect from cold but to stop any mice or squirrels digging them up.
Citrus and any other tender shrubs in pots, such as bay and oleander, which have been outside during the summer, should be brought in now. Keep them in a cool but frost-free position, giving plenty of ventilation whenever the weather is mild to give them some fresh air. Feeding and watering will have to be done carefully, as citrus trees start to come into flower and fruits will even be developing as they ripen over the winter ready for next year.
Sweet peas can be sown now ready for planting out next spring. Sow just as you would in spring but sow 5 or 6 seeds to a 12cm pot and then they can be potted up individually in spring. Some people choose to do it this way to get an earlier start next year.