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October Gardening Calendar

October brings the chill of autumn but Michaelmas daisies are at their most spectacular, and colourful autumn bulbs mean late season borders do not need to be dull. Routine chores and lawn care will help you make the most of the garden during autumn.

Flowers and shrubs

  • Plant crocuses, fritillaries and dwarf narcissus bulbs in lawns to flower in spring
  • Plant spring bedding, including wallflowers and forget-me-nots, for a stunning blue and orange spring display among tulip bulbs and pansies
  • Sow sweet peas in pots and protect the plants in a cold frame over winter for bigger, earlier blooms next year - pinch out seedling tips for bushier plants and more flowers
  • Plant lily bulbs in odd-numbered groups among low shrubs to bloom next summer
  • Plant up patio pots for autumn interest and add tulips for spring colour
  • Dig up tubers of dahlias, gladioli and begonias, clean them off and store them until spring in dry compost in a cool, frost-proof place. Alternatively, in milder areas, protect those left in the ground with a thick mulch of straw or bark
  • Prune rambling and climbing roses after flowering, and shorten long shoots on standard roses. Collect fallen leaves from around roses to reduce the risk of any diseases carrying over to next season
  • Lift, divide and replant congested clumps of perennials and move shrubs that are growing in the wrong place or have outgrown their position
  • Pot up tender perennials from summer displays to bring under cover for winter protection
  • Cut back perennials and cut down annuals, add the cuttings to the compost heap to break up the layers of grass mowings
  • Collect seed from allium seed heads and sow immediately in pots of compost
  • Make sure tall, late-flowering chrysanthemums are well staked
  • Pile a thick bark over the soil around dahlias and agapanthus and over the crowns of hardy fuchsias to provide winter protection

Fruit and vegetables

  • Lift and store carrots and beetroot
  • Harvest ripening tomatoes and courgettes before conditions turn cold and finish picking beans, but leave a few pods to ripen fully to save their seed
  • Plant garlic and autumn onion sets
  • Sow broad beans for early crops next May and June; plant broad beans and hardy peas
  • Pot up chives, mint and parsley to bring under cover for winter use
  • Make a cross-cut in cabbage stems when harvesting to encourage a further crop
  • Pick apples and pears before the wind blows them down
  • Put cloches over tender herbs and salads , such as basil and coriander
  • Wrap grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to protect them from winter moths
  • Clear away plants and fading foliage from old crops

In the greenhouse

  • Line greenhouses with bubble wrap for insulation against falling night temperatures
  • Ventilate the greenhouse on warm days but close doors and vents every evening to trap in the warmth
  • Remove shading paint, blinds and netting and scrub down the glass to let in plenty of light - check your greenhouse heaters are in working order and that there’s fuel in stock
  • Pot up tender perennials grown outside, such as fuschias, and bring under cover, along with late-flowering chrysanthemums, agapanthus, aeoniums, eucomis, peaches and nectarines when frosts are forecast
  • Water plants more sparingly as weather conditions are getting cooler
  • Sow hardy annuals in pots, such as calendulas and sweet peas, for early flowers next year and pinch out the growing tips of sweet pea seedlings to ensure bushier plants
  • Water dormant pots of cyclamen that were left to die down for the summer, and keep them in cool conditions
  • Stop watering pots of begonia, gloxinia, achimene, gloriosa, eucomis and other summer bulbs to allow the top growth to die down
  • Pick and lay out the last green tomatoes from outdoor crops to ripen under cover
  • Sow pots of hardy winter lettuces in guttering or grow bags
  • Continue harvesting chillies, peppers and other crops
  • Plant bowls with hyacinths and spring bulbs and pot up roots of lily-of-the-valley to provide fragrant winter flowers
  • Clear out old crops in pots and grow bags and add them to the compost heap
  • Check all plants for signs of pests and treat immediately

Lawn and trees

  • It’s your last chance to mow the lawn before winter but if it’s been a dry year, raise the cutting height of the lawnmower blades
  • Level out dips in lawns with loam-based compost and sow fresh grass seed - seed should be sown evenly at 50g/2oz per square metre and soil should be lightly raked afterwards
  • Regularly rake away autumn leaves; scarify, aerate and apply an autumn lawn feed - use a fork or hollow-tined aerator to spike your lawn if it's compacted and improve drainage by brushing grit into the holes
  • Prune suckers away from the base of ornamental trees
  • Plant evergreen shrubs and conifer hedges

General maintenance

  • Protect large ceramic or delicate glazed pots from frost damage by wrapping them in bubble wrap or moving them into a shed or somewhere undercover during winter
  • Stretch netting across ponds or water features to stop autumn leaves falling in and rotting
  • Retrieve canes and plant supports from flower beds, clean and store away
  • If you don't already have one set up, install a water butt attached to your house, greenhouse or shed guttering to collect rainwater over the winter months
  • Wrap insulation material around outdoor taps and pipes; remove pumps and filters from ponds and bubble fountains to avoid damage in freezing weather
  • Dig over vacant soil and spread a thick layer of compost over the surface
  • Clear away debris that could be sheltering slugs and snails and check bonfires before lighting them in case there are hibernating hedgehogs in them
  • Throw a net over branches of holly berries to protect them from hungry birds if you want to use them for Christmas decorations

Plan ahead

  • Order bare-root roses, hedging plants, trees and shrubs, and fruit trees and bushes, and prepare the soil for planting in late autumn
  • Send off for seed catalogues
  • Buy primroses and primulas for spring colour

Little green fingers

  • Planting up patio pots for spring or summer colour is a great way to get kids involved in the garden this month. Older children can also help spread mulch around dahlias, agapanthus and over the crowns of hardy fuchsias to ‘tuck them in’ for winter