Whilst the calendar year might be coming to an end, the gardener’s year is just beginning, as Head Gardener Ashley’s very first Head Gardeners’ Tips will tell you.
The days may be getting shorter, but there is still plenty to do in the garden!
October is the perfect time to plant trees and shrubs as the soil is still warm, encouraging root growth and allowing time for plants to settle in, ready to put on growth in spring. When planting, remember to make sure the surface of the root ball is planted level with the soil surface. Planting too deep can cause the plant to rot and planting too shallow can cause wind rock and drying out.
There are of course exceptions such as clematis, which generally like to be planted slightly deeper to help avoid clematis wilt. Apply a mulch around the base of your plants to help retain moisture and supress weed growth. Make sure this mulch is not touching the stem or trunk of the plant as this may cause rot over winter.
Now is also the time to plant spring flowering bulbs. Here at Horatio’s Garden London, we will be planting around 5,000 bulbs to create a stunning spring display. These include Tulipa sprengeri, Allium sphaerocephalon and Narcissus pseudonarcissus among many others.
You can plant in blocks of varieties and colour for a more formal look or throw bulbs and plant them where they land for a more naturalistic effect (not a recommended technique for slopes!). As a general rule of thumb, plant bulbs three times the depth of their size.
If planting in pots, why not try a ‘bulb lasagne’ where you plant different varieties in different layers, giving an extended season of range and colour. The general rule for this is plant later flowering bigger bulbs (such as tulips) in the lower layers and the smaller early flowering bulbs (such as crocus) in the top layers. Cover pots with a layer of gravel and if you have squirrel issues use chicken wire.
Don’t forget to collect the seeds of plants you would like to sow next year or share with others. Collect seed on a dry day from healthy plants that have fully matured seed heads/fruits. Sow them immediately or if storing for spring keep in a dry, airtight container (paper envelopes will also work in most cases) and place in the refrigerator. Some seeds need to be sown immediately, some are better sown in spring, so always check before storing. Seeds from fruit (this includes tomatoes) generally require sieving and drying before storing to avoid fungal rot.
In the vegetable garden you can sow leafy crops like salad, Chinese cabbages, rocket, spinach and cauliflowers outdoors or under a cloche if the weather turns cold. Broad beans and peas can also be sown now in a sheltered spot for early crops next year. Now is the perfect time to get garlic in the ground, try growing different cultivars for a range of intensity.
Other jobs in the garden:
• Spend time admiring the subtle changes in leaf colour as the season progresses
• Collect fallen leaves (non-diseased) and put in bags or in a compost bin to create valuable leaf mould
• Mulch beds with well rotted garden compost or manure and add top dressing to pots
• Cut back perennial top growth that has been knocked by frost. Leave anything that has aesthetic value or can provide an overwintering home for insects.
• Scarify lawns and top dress and sow seed if necessary
• Collect fully ripened seeds
• Plant trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and winter crops
• Replace summer annuals with winter bedding to create colourful displays
• Continue to feed the birds and provide them with fresh water
• Take stock of what has been successful in your garden and start planning for next year
It’s exciting to think what next spring may hold!