After summer, take stock and clear your garden in October Image: Photographee.eu
October is a beautiful month of autumnal colours and first frosts. Crisp, blue-sky days are the perfect time to tidy up and cut back in the garden. If you grow fruit and veg, there's still plenty to harvest and store for the cold winter months ahead.
For advice on what to get started this month, check out the ‘what to sow & grow in October' page. In the meantime, here's a list of jobs to keep on top of this month:
Invest in garden fleece for when the temperatures drop Image: Vadym Zaitsev
Here are some of the main jobs for the month of October
• If your greenhouse is fairly empty, now's a good time to clean and disinfect it. This lets in more light, and prevents pests and diseases over-wintering.
• Protect half-hardy plants with fleece or bring them into a frost-free greenhouse.
• Sweep up any fallen leaves that harbour fungal spores and provide ideal hiding places for slugs and snails. Use them to make leaf mould for the garden.
• Lift and divide any overcrowded herbaceous perennials whilst the soil is still warm.
• Finish harvesting beans and peas. When they've finished cropping simply cut the plant away at ground level, leaving the roots in the soil. These crops fix nitrogen which is slowly released into the soil as the roots break down.
• If you plan to grow beans next year, start preparing the site by digging trenches and filling with manure or kitchen waste.
• If you haven't done so already, cut back the fruited canes of your summer fruiting raspberries, leaving the new green canes for next year's crop. Tie in next year's raspberry canes to support wires or fencing.
• Move citrus trees indoors to a bright, frost free position (4-12°C) away from cold draughts and radiators. Reduce watering in winter but don't let the plant dry out completely.
• Clear the straw from around the base of strawberry plants to increase ventilation. Shear back old foliage to encourage fresh new growth.
• Divide congested clumps of rhubarb by digging up and splitting into several pieces with a spade. Re-plant the healthiest looking pieces.
• To test when apples are ripe, gently lift them in the palm of your hand or give them a gentle pull - they should come away easily.
• Remove any diseased fruits from branches or the ground so they don't infect next year's crops.
• Wrap grease bands around the trunks of apple trees to trap winter moth females whose caterpillars shred spring flowers.
• Remove the netting from fruit cages to allow birds to catch and eat any pests that are lurking there.
• Apply a winter wash to the trunks and branches of fruit trees to kill off over-wintering pests.
In the greenhouse
A greenhouse heater keeps your plants frost-free during the colder months Image: Mainagashev
• If you haven't done so already, remove any greenhouse shading to allow as much light in as possible.
• Move tender plants into the greenhouse to protect them from early frosts. Make sure that there's enough space between to keep them well ventilated and reduce the risk of disease.
• Check any plants which you're bringing inside for pests like aphids.
• Continue to remove any fallen or dead plant material to keep the growing area free of fungal diseases.
• Set up your greenhouse heater in case of early frosts.
Looking after your lawn
Prepare for lawn for winter's worst with preventative aerating Image: Paul Maguire
• Clear up fallen leaves regularly to allow light to the grass.
• A last mowing can be made this month before leaving your lawn for the winter.
• Recut any lawn edges if needed. Install lawn edging to make future maintenance easier.
• Aerate your lawn with a garden fork to avoid waterlogging and compaction over winter.
• Rake any thatch from the surface and repair dead patches. There's still time to lay fresh turf if required.
• Reuse spent compost from annual container displays as a mulch on the garden.
• Create compost bins for collecting fallen leaves and dead plant material.
• Collect leaves up for making leaf mould as a soil conditioner. Oak, Alder and Hornbeam will rot down in a year but beech, sycamore, horse chestnut and sweet chestnut take a couple of years to compost.
• Start preparing a bonfire with twigs and prunings - cover them with plastic so they remain dry for better burning later. (Be sure to check for hedgehogs before lighting your bonfire)
• Net ponds to prevent leaves falling into them. If you need to clear pond weed lay it next to the pond for a day to allow wildlife to escape back to the water.