October and Autumn is making its presence known in the garden. Leaves are beginning to fall and the flower border is looking a bit sad. Tidying up and preparing for the winter ahead are the main tasks in the garden this month. However, there is also plenty to be done in preparation for next spring. So before you go out into the garden take a minute to check this short reminder of some of the essential things to be doing in the flower garden during October.
As leaves begin to fall from the trees make sure you rake them up from borders and lawns. If you have a pond it is worth securing netting over it to prevent leaves falling in and fouling the water. As the threat of frost draws ever nearer, remove all saucers under pots to prevent frost damage to them. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to lift dahlia tubers. Wrap them in newspaper and store in a dry place until next spring. Tie in new growth on climbing plants in anticipation of autumn high winds. Cut down stems of spent perennials and save any seed you want to sow for next year.
Once you have tidied herbaceous borders of summer bedding, fork over the soil. Now is a good time to plant perennials you have either divided or bought to give them a chance to settle before winter starts. Biennials such as wallflowers, Canterbury Bell, Sweet William and Foxglove can also be planted out at this time. Now is also the time to plant evergreen shrubs and hedges.
Start planting tulip bulbs towards the end of the month. Plant them in groups to create drifts of spring colour. Also plant crocus and other dwarf bulbs in lawns or rough areas of grass. Take a handful of bulbs, scatter them and then plant them where they fall for a naturalized look. At the end of the month think about planting bare rooted roses.
Fill in gaps in the flower border with winter bedding plants such as pansies and violas. Emptied garden planters can now be filled with bedding plants or evergreen shrubs such as skimmia for winter interest. Alternatively you can fill them with spring flowering bulbs. If you plant layers of different varieties of bulb in one pot that flower at different times you will get a succession of colour throughout the spring. Plant large flowered daffodils at the bottom of the pot, followed by a layer of compost and then tulips. Finish with a top layer of dwarf bulbs such as Crocus, tete-a-tete and iris.
Jo Poultney, a RHS qualified gardener who has recently set up a business selling garden planters and garden related gifts via a website.