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October Tips

The Ornamental Garden

  • Transplant evergreen shrubs. Dig them with a generous ball of soil to protect the roots and minimise disturbance. Some large roots may have to be cut but retain as many fibrous roots as possible. These roots are the important ones to get your plant
    re-established. Don’t be afraid to remove some leaves and reduce the top growth, it will help to get your plant going again. Add plenty of organic matter to the planting hole, water them in thoroughly and continue to water until established. Mulch the roots and shield the tops from drying winds.
  • Reduce the height of bush roses by trimming them back by a third to a half their height. This will reduce the likelihood of the roots being damaged if the tops rock around in the winter gales. Clear up and burn any diseased leaves.
  • Plant new roses. If you can only replant where roses were before, put some ‘Rootgrow’ in the bottom of the planting hole. This contains beneficial mycorrhizae fungi which roses seem to need to do well. Roses are notorious for performing badly if planted into soil that has grown roses recently. ‘Rootgrow’ will help the newly planted roses overcome any difficulty they may have had in getting going. This is true of fruit trees too.
  • Towards the end of the month, wrap the stems of Torbay Palms, Bananas and tender palms with fleece. Use their leaves to give added insulation to the all important growing tip inside.
  • Put a generous wadge of straw in the tops of tree ferns and wrap their stems too if they are in a very cold place.
  • Plant any sort of tree, shrub, climber, perennial, conifer, rockery plant and heather this month, as long as they are hardy. This is the very best month for planting!
  • Sow Sweet Peas for the best and earliest blooms next year! Use extra deep pots or better still ‘Root Trainers’. Plants established now can be overwintered in a cold greenhouse, frame or glazed porch and will tolerate some frost. For the best plants, pinch out the leader when it gets about 10cm high and then select the strongest side shoot that grows and remove all the others. Plant outside in March in well prepared soil.
  • Plant Winter Flowering Pansies but look for those that are already in flower or have buds showing. Those without buds now may not flower well until spring. Don’t forget to take precautions against slug and snail attack. Watch for greenfly even in winter.
  • Plant wallflowers out to provide a great display and fantastic scent in spring. These traditional bedding plants still provide a superb show and look fantastic when
    underplanted with tall tulips. If your borders look full and there appears to be no room for bulbs, pot them into largish pots so that they can be dropped into the gaps which will inevitably appear as winter approaches. Taller tulips and daffodils can easily be grown this way.
  • Lift Dahlia roots and store them in a frost free place for winter. Cut the tops back to about 8-10cm and stand them upside down for a few days to let the excess water drain out of the stems. Dust them with Yellow Sulphur* to prevent rotting. If you live in a sheltered area or garden near the sea, you may be able to leave the roots in the ground after covering them with a 15cm mulch of compost.
  • Finish bulb planting now, the sooner they are in the ground, the sooner they will start rooting and the better they will perform next year.
  • Treat slippery paths with moss and algae killer such as Patio Magic or Algon.
  • Tidy up hedges and renovate those that have got out of shape. Some varieties will tolerate this but others will not, if in doubt check with us first!
  • Treat lawns with an autumn feed and moss killer*. For just moss control we recommend M O Bacter which has a biological mode of action.
  • If you are trying to grow lime hating plants and your soil is naturally alkaline [limey], add Sulphate of Iron* to the soil and gently hoe it in now. This will lower the pH of the soil and enable you to grow such beautiful plants as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and the summer flowering group of heathers. Don’t exceed the recommended dose, it is better to make this an annual routine.
  • If your soil is “heavy” and has a high percentage of clay and/or silt content you can improve its structure and make it easier to work by digging in some Vitax Clay Breaker*. This will stick the clay particles together and improve the structure of the soil permanently. Digging in lots of organic matter such as ‘Revive’ helps too.

The Greenhouse

  • Lift and pot Pelargoniums and tender varieties of Fuchsias before the first frost gets them. Trim them back by about half and pot them into a good quality potting compost. Place in a greenhouse with frost protection or put them onto a well lit windowsill. Spray them with a fungicide to keep them free of diseases
  • Clean shade material off greenhouses now. Wash the glass to get the maximum light into your plants. Replace any broken glass and block up any draught holes.
  • Remove crops and plants before burning a Greenhouse Smoke Generator candles* to kill most over-wintering pests.
  • Sow Rosetta lettuce or Sutton’s Speedy Seed range of salad veg to get fresh veg throughout winter. Both are excellent and relatively easy! For a sheltered place outside sow Vaila which is a Little Gem type.

The Kitchen Garden

  • Sow Pea Douce Provence for the earliest crops of garden peas. These round seeded varieties are hardy and reliable. Expect some losses when sowing at this time of year so sow extra seed to compensate. If your soil is wet and sticky clay it may pay to sow the seed into a length of rainwater gutter filled with good potting compost. If you line the bottom with newspaper I find that the young plants and compost slide neatly out into a shallow trench in the veg plot and the paper soon rots away.
  • Pick maincrop varieties of apples and pears. Choose only the unblemished sound fruits to store, the others should be discarded or eaten straight away. Apples can be stored quite well in ordinary clear freezer bags. Fill them up and then make a few holes in the sides with a sharp point [take care not to jab the fruit]. Fold the top over and invert the bag to let it sit upside down (covering the opening) in a cool building away from direct light. Check the fruit regularly and remove any that are ripe or rotten. This way fruit can be stored easily well into winter but they must be varieties that keep well. Pears are better stored individually and watched carefully for the rapid ripening process they have.
  • Sow Mustard & Cress for a nutritious salad or garnish. Grow them on a windowsill in damp kitchen roll lined trays or punnets. Sow each thickly but sow the mustard 2 days later. Cover the seeds with paper until the seeds are 25mm [1”] high then remove the covering. Keep moist by regular watering. This is a good way to get young children interested in gardening and produces quick results for impatient minds!
  • Aquadulce Broad Beans can be sown from now on. This autumn sowing will produce the earliest crop and invariably avoids attack from blackfly. If your plot is windy you may wish to sow a shorter variety like The Sutton but this variety is not for cold spots.
  • Remove any ‘mummified’ fruits from apples and plum trees. These will have been infected with ‘Brown Rot’ and the spores on these dried up fruits, often stuck together in clusters, could infect next year’s crop if left on the tree or the ground underneath.
  • Pull up runner bean plants and put them on the compost heap. Store the poles in a dry place for next year.
  • Cover tender veg with tunnels of fleece. Plant all forms of fruit trees, bushes and canes this month; this is the best time for planting!

The Wildlife Garden

  • If badgers dig up tulip bulbs, plant the bulbs in a buried cage made of chicken wire.
  • Step up the bird feeding this month, a variety of feeds will bring a variety of birds to your garden.
  • Don’t rush to cut off flower seed heads as these could provide free bird food.
  • Put up Ladybird, Lacewing or Mason Bee over-wintering lodges to help these useful insects over-winter. They will help you with pest control next year!
  • Install a shelter for toads, hedgehog and bat boxes. Both these will encourage these very useful and interesting mammals to visit your garden.
  • Install a birdbath. Birds need to maintain their feathers as much in winter as summer.
  • Erect a net over your pond to prevent falling leaves from trees and shrubs getting into the water and increasing the nutrient levels when they breakdown. They may also deprive the fish of oxygen as they decompose.
  • Remove dead leaves from pond plants as they die back.
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