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Home Grown Squash

October in Your Garden

Frosty mornings start to creep int his month and the garden gives its last hurrah to summer

Essential jobs:

  • Divide established rhubarb crowns to create new plants

  • Cut back perennials that have died down

  • Divide herbaceous perennials

  • Move tender plants, including aquatic ones, into a greenhouse or conservatory 

  • Plant out spring cabbages

  • Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts

  • Prune climbing roses

  • Finish collecting seeds from the garden to sow next year

  • Last chance to mow lawns and trim hedges in mild areas

  • Renovate old lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf



Jobs for October


Herbaceous and annuals


Sowing and planting

Plant wallflowers, forget-me-not, Bellis, Primula, Viola (including winter pansies) and other spring bedding plants in prepared ground or pots.


In mild areas, it is still possible to sow hardy annuals outside, which will happily grow over winter for a display next year.


Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs.


Now is also a good time to plant new herbaceous perennials, as the soil is still warm, but has more moisture than in the summer.


Lily bulbs can be planted up in pots this month.


Cutting back, pruning and dividing

Cut back faded herbaceous perennials and add to the compost heap.


Lift and divide poor flowering or overcrowded herbaceous plants and split them to encourage renewed growth.


General Maintenance

Raise patio containers on to bricks or purpose-made pot feet to avoid them sitting in water during the winter.


Move alpine troughs to a covered porch or lean-to to protect them from the rain - ask for help with lifting to avoid back injuries! Pick over alpines regularly, removing any autumn debris and covering died-back patches with extra grit to encourage their re-growth.


Make sure you have finished bringing all tender plants into the heated greenhouse or conservatory for the winter.


Wait for the first frosts to hit dahlias and cannas before lifting the tubers or rhizomes. In warmer regions, they may be all right left in the ground, but do cover the crowns with a protective layer of straw or bracken.


Remove stakes and other supports as herbaceous plants die down for the winter.


Check any bulbs being forced in darkness. If they show signs of top growth and have a healthy root system when knocked out of the bowl, bring them into a cool, light room to induce flowering.



Shrubs and Trees


Pruning and training

Cut back tender shrubs such as Penstemon, Caryopteris and hardy fuchsias after danger of frosts has passed.


Prune deciduous magnolias once the plant is in full leaf. If this is done in winter, when the tree is dormant, dieback can occur, and pruning in late winter or spring can result in bleeding. Midsummer is therefore recommended.


Clip evergreen hedges such as privet (Ligustrum), box (Buxus - right) and Lonicera nitida*  if needed. If they are not too woody, shredded clippings can be added to the compost heap.


Thin out new shoots on trees and shrubs that were pruned in winter to stimulate growth. Remove crossing stems and prevent overcrowding of new growth.


Prune out any remaining frost damage from affected evergreen shrubs.


Prune flowering shrubs such as Deutzia, Kolkwitzia, Weigela and Philadelphus after they have finished flowering. If this job is left too late, the new growth put on after pruning may not have sufficient ripening time to flower well next year.


Evergreens such as Viburnum tinus can also still be trimmed this month.


Rhododendrons can be lightly pruned after flowering. More severe pruning should wait until the following early spring.


Prune overcrowded, dead or diseased stems of Clematis montana once it has finished flowering. Untangling the stems can be fiddly, but once you can see where you are cutting, you need not worry about pruning this plant - it will take even hard cutting back very well.


Young mimosa trees (Acacia dealbata) can be cut back once all risk of frost has passed. Mature trees respond less well to hard pruning.


Prune wall-trained pyracanthas, removing any shoots coming out from the wall, and shortening other new growth to about 8cm (3in). This encourages spur formation, and increased flowering relative to green growth.


Remove any reverted green shoots on hardy variegated evergreens (such as Elaeagnus, right), to prevent reversion taking over.


Twining climbers (such as honeysuckle and Clematis) need regular tying in and twining around their supports.


Tie in climbing and rambling roses as near to horizontal as possible. This will restrict sap flow causing more side-shoots to grow along the length of stem. Therefore more flowers will be produced.



Take softwood cuttings of deciduous shrubs, including Caryopteris, Forsythia, Kolkwitzia, lavender and rosemary if not done last month.


Take softwood cuttings of many deciduous shrubs, including Fuchsia (left), Hydrangea macrophylla, Philadelphus and Spiraea.


Layering is a good way to propagate climbers and lax-stemmed shrubs. Layers should root by next spring, especially if attention to watering is given during dry weather. Examples to try include Philadelphus, Wisteria, Akebia and Lonicera.


General maintenance

Hybrid tea roses can be disbudded, removing all smaller buds from the cluster that forms at the shoot tip, leaving the largest central (or ‘king’) bud to develop into a large, show-stopping bloom.


Ensure newly planted trees and shrubs do not dry out. Water with rain, grey or recycled water wherever possible.


Loosen any tree ties that are digging into the bark, or could do so soon as the trunk girth expands.


Sprinkle fertiliser around perennials, shrubs and roses.


Water around the crown of tree ferns, especially newly planted ones.


Dig out tree and shrub suckers. If sucker removal is difficult, sever the root to isolate the sucker from the parent tree and then carefully treat the sucker with glyphosate.


Pest and disease watch

Check chrysanthemums regularly for signs of white rust - remove affected leaves and destroy badly affected plants.


Discoloured leaves on herbaceous plants such as Chrysanthemum, Anemone and Penstemon, could be leaf and bud eelworm.


Grey mould (Botrytis) can be problematic in wet weather. Remove affected leaves and other parts as soon as the symptoms are seen.


Powdery mildew may still be a problems in dryer, warmer regions having a good 'Indian summer'. It is best to control this disease by cultural methods or by cutting back fading growth, rather than by spraying, which is less effective at this time of year.


Avoid feeding plants late in the season, as this will encourage soft, sappy growth that is more vulnerable to damage by frost and by wet, and can encourage fungal diseases to develop

Gardeners Digest by Brewin Dolphin with Paul Hervey-Brookes 2021

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