Garden Jobs for October

General garden maintenance

  • Tidy up fallen leaves regularly - if they are left on a lawn they will damage the grass by depriving it of air and light. Left on paths and patios, they become slippery. It’s ok to leave some on beds and borders to rot down into the soil, although small plants may be swamped so remove promptly if this is a risk.
  • Leaves are a good addition to the compost heap but remember that they can take longer to break down than other garden matter - chopping them with the lawn mower will help. Dispose of diseased leaves in garden waste.
  • Leaf mould is a brilliant mulch or soil conditioner. If you don’t have a separate area to compost leaves, hessian leaf sacks are available or you can use a plastic sack (make holes in these). Fill the bag with leaves, water it a little and store it in a shady corner, turning it every month or so. After a year the leaves will be useful as a nutrient-rich mulch or, if you leave it for two years, it will become a rich dark compost.
  • Cover ponds with net to prevent leaves falling in, but leave access for wildlife.
  • Clean and tidy around the garden, fixing, mending and storing away. Check fences and trellis and repair as necessary.
  • Drain and put away hoses and irrigation equipment to avoid freezing.
  • Clean paths, decking and patio areas.
  • Remove and compost summer bedding and annuals once they finish flowering.
  • A good layer of compost or well-rotted manure will benefit established trees and shrubs including fruit trees, roses and wisteria. This will help to produce stronger growth and more flowers in the spring.
  • Mulch around more tender plants to help keep their roots warm. Bark or other materials will help trap the summer warmth in the soil.
  • Cut back perennials which are past their best, but leave those with attractive seed heads for winter interest and silhouette such as sedum, echinacea and grasses. As well as looking good, many seed heads are a food source for birds.
  • Summer flowering perennials which have finished flowering can be lifted and divided. Discard congested stems from the centre and replant the outer divisions. Autumn is a good time to move plants which aren’t performing well - maybe they need a different position?

Preparing for stormy weather and cooler temperatures

  • If storms are forecast, make sure outdoor furniture is stored away, pots moved to a sheltered spot and wayward growth on climbers pruned or tied in, especially if they grow on a pergola or trellis which could be damaged in high winds.
  • Check your stock of fleece to protect delicate plants and bubble wrap or hessian to protect pots.
  • Make space in greenhouses, conservatories and sunny windowsills to bring tender potted plants inside.
  • Stand pots on feet or bricks to prevent water logging.

Container gardening

  • Plant containers with Chrysanthemums, Pansies, Violas, Cyclamen or heathers for a splash of colour; ornamental kale and cabbage are fun additions as are grasses which will give movement. Small evergreen shrubs such as Choisya, Euonymus or silvery Calocephalus will give height and structure, and can be planted out in the garden when they outgrow the container. Ivy and Muehlenbeckia are a good addition to trail down the sides.
  • Evergreen perennials such as Heuchera, Tiarella and evergreen ferns do well in containers, and will last through the winter, perhaps with an addition of one of the colourful plants above.
  • Under plant winter containers, window boxes and baskets with bulbs such as dwarf Narcissi, Iris and Crocus. They will find their way up through winter bedding displays.


  • Prune climbing roses and tie in the stems of these and other climbers to prevent wind damage.
  • Prune late summer-flowering shrubs once they finish flowering. Lavender can be pruned to keep it neat and tidy, cutting within the green stems.


  • In the days before plants were sold in plastic pots, nearly all planting was done in late summer and autumn. Nowadays, we can plant at any time of year but the current season remains ideal - the soil is still warm, plants are preparing to wind down and there is less pressure on us to keep things watered. The days are shorter, the sun is cooler and plants can settle in and get established before they need to reawaken again in spring and start using their roots.
  • Think about spring flowering plants such as Euphorbia, Bergenia and Heuchera which associate really well with spring flowering bulbs and climbers such as Clematis, Jasmine and Pyracantha. Get them in the ground now and they will be ahead of those planted in the spring.
  • Plant a shrub for winter flower and scent, such as Camellia, Sarcococca, Skimmia, Viburnum, Hamamelis or Daphne - something with which to brighten the darker months.
  • As a general rule, when planting in new or recently cleared ground, dig in some good compost or farmyard manure. London clay soil often needs improvement to allow drainage - plants don’t like to sit in wet soil in the winter or to be baked in dried out soil in the summer. Breaking down clay with good organic compost and digging in grit will help.

Planting for Spring colour

  • Plant bare root wallflowers as soon as possible after buying them. They may look a bit floppy, but will soon pick up. They work well planted with tulips as they will flower at the same time next year.
  • When planting any bulbs, think about the drainage – if they sit in wet soil, they will rot. Have a look at our short notes Planting bulbs. Grit mixed in with the compost or at the bottom of the planting hole will help. Take the time and effort to plant at the depth suggested on the pack as they will do better and last longer - generally bury at two to three times their own depth.
  • If you can’t work out where to plant snowdrops, they can be planted in pots, with a 50:50 compost and sharp sand or grit mix, and put out in the winter months when you see a gap.
  • Before you plant Anemones, soak the corms in water overnight to soften them and give them a good start.
  • Tulips can be planted towards the end of this month. They are more prone to disease than other bulbs hence planting them later.
  • Bulbs in borders should be in groups of six or more for a good display. In containers, plant them closer together for more impact.
  • To get real value from a container try a bulb lasagne, a method of layering bulbs to flower at different times which looks great and extends the season. You will need a good size pot or window box. Try a bottom layer of tulips, 6-8 inches deep, cover with bulb fibre, then a layer of narcissi and hyacinths 5 inches deep then a layer of dwarf Iris 2 inches deep. When they have finished flowering all except the tulips can be planted out in the garden next year, or potted up again in autumn.
  • Indoors: bowls of prepared Hyacinths or indoor Narcissi such as Paperwhites or Bridal Crown are easy to do and will fill rooms with scent later in the winter. Plant indoor bulbs 4-6 weeks before you want the flowers. Or you could try growing a hyacinth in a bulb glass, watching the roots grow down before the flower appears.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

  • Clear away any remaining debris from vegetable gardens and containers.
  • Pick any fruit left on apple, pear and other fruit trees.
  • Remove any figs which are bigger than a pea – they will not ripen now. The tiny fruits will develop and ripen next year.
  • Remove fallen fruit from around trees and shrubs before it rots.
  • If you are storing fruit, choose only ‘perfect’ fruit, with no sign of damage or disease. Pack dry fruits in a single layer in crates, not touching, and with good air circulation.
  • Put grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to deter winter moth damage.
  • Create an indoor herb garden on a windowsill. You will be able to keep tender herbs such as basil and coriander going for much longer inside.

Watering and feeding

  • Continue to water anything which has been planted recently. Until we have considerable rain, the ground remains dry and roots may not have reached down far enough yet. Think in terms of buckets of water a couple of times a week rather than a sprinkle of water every day.


  • Keep mowing the lawn when it’s dry.
  • Continue with autumn lawn care as mentioned last month - scarify, aerate and remove weeds.
  • Renovate tatty lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf, or sowing seed, up to mid October.
  • Use an autumn/winter lawn feed and water it in well, especially if the weather is dry. After the stress of the hot summer, a high potassium feed will toughen the roots before winter.
  • If necessary, apply a layer of Lawn Dressing - this can be brushed in after aerating the lawn or applied as a layer on top to toughen the lawn and help repair bare patches.

Pests and disease

  • Generally clean and tidy up: a clean garden is a healthier garden.
  • Make sure you remove weeds which can act as a host for pests and diseases over winter.
  • Deter squirrels from pots or areas of planted bulbs with a wire mesh.


  • Clean out nesting boxes for birds, and put up some new ones.
  • When tidying and cleaning in the garden, leave somewhere for wildlife such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads to hibernate as we head towards winter.
  • Birds will keep coming to your garden if you keep the feeders topped up, and it’s important to leave water for them too. They begin to need more calories as the temperature drops, which can be provided by fat balls and suet blocks.