Gardening in October: As we settle into autumn, now's the time to plant bulbs outside for spring and inside in pots for winter colour, and clear away the leaves on your lawn.
If you haven't already, this is the time to order or buy your spring bulbs. Plant now and you'll have flowers from February to May. The general rule is to plant at twice the depth of the height of the bulbs, so bigger bulbs go deeper into the soil, with the pointed end up. They can be planted together, but an ideal order of flowering is:
• January: Winter aconites
• February: Snowdrops/Crocuses
• March: Daffodils
• April: Tulips
• May: Alliums
Bulbs planted in the lawn can look pretty, but you won't be able to mow until after the flowers are gone and the leaves yellowed. If you cut the leaves off too early, the bulb won't be able to make the food it needs to store for growing next year. You could leave a swathe of lawn for bulbs and keep the rest of the grass cut. Or, another solution is to turn your lawn into a wildflower meadow so the summer flowers take over from the bulbs and grow up around them.
Lift tender summer bulbs such as gladioli and dahlias and store in a cool, dry place. Traditionally, this is the month to cut back perennials, but the new school of thought says leaving the dead stems is good for wildlife and may also provide protection for the roots. Traditionalists will claim the stems harbour pests and diseases. Horticulturally, it makes little difference when they're cut back as long as it's done before new growth starts next spring.
Fruit and vegetables
• Garlic bulbs and onion sets should be planted now, and transplant spring cabbages to their final position.
• Dig up temporary summer crops – runner beans, root veg such as carrots and beetroot, and pumpkins and squashes.
• Leave vegetables that can be harvested into autumn and winter, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflowers.
• Pick the last of any summer crop fruits such as raspberries, apples and pears.
• Experiment with bulbs in pots – try something unusual, or go for tried-and-tested crocuses, tulips and daffodils. These will flower indoors earlier than they would outside, so in January you'll have your own preview of spring.
• Prepared bulbs – usually amaryllis and hyacinths – have been through a series of cold treatments to trigger the growing process and can be in flower for Christmas. When you plant them, remember they can get very top heavy, so make sure the soil and pot are weighty enough. Finish off the top of the soil with a layer of grass or moss.
IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING...
....cover anything that might be damaged by frost. Most herbaceous perennials will be wintering underground and can be protected with a layer of bark compost. Bring small succulents indoors and protect larger plants such as tree ferns where they stand by tying horticultural fleece around their tops.
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Gaura is an amazing plant – it has a delicate filigree of flowers all the way through from May and will still be going strong until the first frosts. The more usual white variety is called Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies', though there are pink ones available too.
You Might Also Like