1 October 2023

Head Gardeners’ tips
October 2023

Chelsea Lowe - Head Gardener, Scotland

October is one of the most atmospheric months.

Autumn can feel like a bit of a race in the garden. There are so many jobs that can be done, but as the daylight falters and the chill creeps in, the weather starts dictating the schedule.

October is one of the most atmospheric months, with some days crisp and sunny, some all blustery wind full of leaves, and yet others are luminous with soft fog carrying hints of apples and woodsmoke.

The smell of autumn is also very evocative, and the scent of damp rich earth tells our brains that the land is fertile and encourages us to linger, an age-old survival mechanism linking us to nature. Be sure to get out of the garden for a woodland walk, and revel in this golden liminal season.

Autumn can feel like a bit of a race in the garden. There are so many jobs that can be done, but as the daylight falters and the chill creeps in, the weather starts dictating the schedule.

Leaving seedheads and stems for winter structure is beautiful as well as beneficial to our gardens. The hollow stems are habitat and the seedheads food for garden insects and birds.

That said while the ground is warm enough early this month, you can still restructure the borders, moving perennials, shrubs and now dormant trees to where they might work better. Autumn transplanting gives a longer establishing time for new roots to go down, and often means a better display in spring.

If you have deciduous trees nearby, collecting leaves is a wonderful way to create your own leafmould, a fabulous low nutrient mulch and soil conditioner. Some strong wire mesh and four bamboo canes for the corners is a fast and simple method, but leaf cages can be made out of pallets, standard compost bins, or even just collect the leaves in black bags with holes poked in the bottom for drainage.

Some leaves will make usable leaf mould in 12 months, but thicker leaves may take longer unless shredded. I always find so many gorgeous creatures hibernating in the piles and almost always a few solitary bumblebees.

Tender plants will need protection in Scotland from this month and soon after in the south, so giving the greenhouse or coldframe a good scrub can help to clear out any pest populations that have started to congregate over the summer.

Be sure to check your plants and pots over before you bring them in, as slugs often hitch a ride. If you don’t have a greenhouse already, it’s also a great time to treat yourself and get one installed. Truly a gardeners’ paradise, and a great way to boost your vitamin D and mental health over winter!

If you have had fungal issues, or pests that have been recurring to wreak havoc on certain shrubs or plants, autumn is a good time to clear the leaf litter and soil at the base of affected plants, and refresh with a clean, thick layer of mulch or compost. Problems such as rose blackspot, brown rot and viburnum beetle can all be suppressed, if the spores and beasties aren’t allowed to linger around the plant.

A seasonal activity this month is the infamous Jack-o-Lantern carving. I adore Halloween, and whether you prefer a traditional turnip or the modern orange pumpkin for your Halloween lantern, nothing beats the spooky flickering faces to light the way for wee guisers.

Centuries ago, Halloween was the final celebration of the harvest and a time that people traditionally gathered together to bring in the last of the crops before the weather turned foul. Bonfires would have been used to purify fields; burning diseased prunings and lighting the festivities and feasts. We too can celebrate our final harvests, gather friends, sip spiced cider, eat squash soup and share our garden successes.

Share this:

Keep in touch

Sign-up to hear the latest news and activities from Horatio’s Garden

By completing this form, you confirm that you are aged 18 years or over and that you are happy to receive emails from Horatio’s Garden in accordance with our Privacy Policy. We will never share your details with anyone else without your express permission.

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping