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Home & garden.

19 August 2021

Gardening jobs for October

Our expert Which? guide to the gardening jobs you need to do in October, such as clearing autumn leaves and planting spring bedding.
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Which?Editorial team
Kniphofia

October usually sees the first frost blackening the foliage of tender plants, such as dahlias. The autumn leaves also begin to colour up and eventually fall. It's time to dismantle the summer displays and prepare the garden for the winter ahead.

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Garden maintenance for October

Clear leaves

The simplest method of clearing leaves off the lawn is to run over them with a lawn mower. The cutting action of the mower blades will help to shred the leaves and make them quicker to rot down.

Collect leaves this way once a week - any longer and the grass will start to grow long and get harder to cut. 

For clearing patios, paths and other surfaces, a leaf blower is a better bet. Either blow the leaves onto the lawn for the mower to pick up or blast them on to a tarpaulin and drag them to the compost heap.

Discover our top five leaf blowers

Turn the compost heap

As the garden is tidied in preparation for winter, lots of material is generated for composting. To encourage it to rot down quickly, turn the contents regularly to stir it up and allow in lots of air.

In the colder weather, the rate of decomposition will naturally decrease, but it will soon speed up during warmer spells.

Discover our Best Buy compost bins

Weeding

Weeds will still be germinating and growing strongly in mild periods of weather, so be vigilant and remove them when you see them. Try to dig them out rather than pulling them up, as you’re more likely to get them out with roots and all that way.

Collect leaves from hard surfaces and paths

October usually marks the start of the leaf-falling season. It’s fine to leave them on borders. However, on paths and hard surfaces, it’s best to gather them straight away as they can be very slippery, especially when the weather is wet. You can clear leaves off the lawn by running over them with a lawn mower.

Replace your mower with a Best Buy lawn mower

How do you make leaf mould?

Which? Gardening has trialled different methods of making leaf mould, and this method came out on top: 

  • Shred the leaves by running over them with a lawn mower or by collecting them with a leaf blower vacuum.

  • If the leaves aren't moist already, sprinkle them with water.
  • Put them in black plastic bags and seal when full.
  • Use a garden fork to pierce a few holes in the bags.
  • >Leave the bags in a quiet corner of the garden.
  • Your light, crumbly leaf mould should be ready in 12 months.

Try a Best Buy garden shredder

Clean greenhouse glass

Wipe clean the glass and polythene of any plant-growing structures to increase light reaching plants. It makes a big difference in the dull winter months and will stop your plants growing tall and spindly in their search for light.

Grow-your-own-veg jobs for October

Weed and mulch

After any last harvests, weed thoroughly and spread a 3-5cm-deep layer of compost, although new beds can have up to 10cm deep. This protects and feeds soil organisms, which keep soil aerated and structured. Homemade compost is best, but you haven’t got enough, buy in green-waste compost, spent mushroom compost or well-rotted manure. These can be ordered online and delivered to your house.

Learn how to make compost

Plant garlic

Break the bulb into  individual cloves and push into the soil– use a trowel to avoid damaging them –so the tip is just covered. Space the cloves 15cm apart in rows 30cm apart, so it will be easy to hoe off weeds. 

If you can, grow garlic indoors in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel as outdoor crops have been suffering from rust in recent years and aren’t growing as big as indoor ones. They should be ready to harvest next June.

Sow carrots

Sow carrots by mid-month under a cloche or in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel, to overwinter as seedlings and crop in April.

Try a Best Buy carrot variety

Plant spring cabbage

If you sowed spring cabbage four to six weeks ago, or can buy some plants, early October is excellent for planting them out. Make sure you cover them with netting or mesh to protect them against pigeons and rabbits.

Learn how to protect your crops from pigeons

Remove greenhouse crops

Greenhouse crops, such as tomatoes, are past their best by October, so remove the old plants and put them in the compost bin. If you have any green tomatoes, we found the best method for ripening them is to put them in a dark place with a gentle, room-temperature level of warmth, such as in a kitchen drawer.

Plant winter salads

Winter salads sown in module trays in September should now be large enough to plant out. It’s best to grow them undercover, whether in a cold greenhouse or outdoors under fleece or insect-proof mesh. First, cover the beds with a 3-5cm deep layer of mulch, then space plants 20cm apart as they’re cropped over a long period, from Novemberto early May.

Grow our Best Buy lettuce varieties

Plants-and-flowers-jobs for October

Plant up spring pots

If you haven't already planted some containers with spring colour, there's still time to plant now using bedding plants such as violas and wallflowers, plus spring-flowering bulbs. 

Keep your pots in a sheltered spot, such as under a porch, to encourage blooms through the winter and to avoid plants rotting off in the winter wet. Cyclamen and ornamental cabbage are particularly vulnerable to rotting in damp conditions.

You won't get masses of blooms during colder weather, but any milder spells should see a good show.

Be sure to use a Best Buy compost for containers.

Bring tender plants under protection

If you've got tender plants, such as canna, now's the time to bring them indoors before they get killed by the frost.

Choose a light, frost-free place such as a greenhouse or coldframe. Then keep them on the dry side during the winter, so they don't put on much growth.

The plants can then be brought back into growth in spring by gradually increasing the amount of water they receive.

Learn what to look for in a greenhouse

Tidy up perennials

Cut back any plants that have started to look past their best. Ones with seedheads can be left to help feed birds over winter.

Try a Best Buy squirrel-proof bird feeder

Remove summer bedding

Summer bedding is past its best by now, and it’s time to pull it up and put it on the compost heap. You can then mulch the bare soil with compost for the worms to drag into the soil and improve it over winter. It will then be ready for you to start over in spring.

Get indoor bulbs to flower for Christmas

Plant early varieties of hyacinths by early October. Put them in a cool (10°C), dark place until the shoots are about 5cm, before bringing them into the house.

Plant an early variety of hippeastrum (amarylis) by mid-October. Bigger bulbs produce the best show. Pot them into pots 2-3cm wider than the bulb. Water sparingly until the leaves develop.

Deadhead dahlias

Dahlias will flower until the frosts eventually blacken the foliage so encourage your plants to produce a beautiful display of blooms by removing the old flowers as they fade. The deadheads can go in the compost bin.

Learn how to grow dahlias