Isn’t it funny how only a few weeks can make all the difference? It’s only 5 weeks since the end of August, but here we are nudging in the Autumn. And what a month October can be; full of burning colour, pungent smells and the last ripenings of the harvest.

Clearing up…

October is really the time to start clearing the debris from summer. If you haven’t already, cut back herbaceous perennials (unless you’re leaving seedheads for wildlife or because they look good), divide overgrown clumps and start to plan how you might want your border to look for next year. You can also plant new perennials now, while the soil is still relatively warm.

Keep raking fallen leaves to make leaf mould and to keep the lawn clear. Now is also the last chance to sow grass seed in mild areas before it gets too cold.

Collect the last of any seed you want to sow for next year amd store in paper bags to keep them dry.

Remove any old canes or plant supports once plants have died down. However don’t forget that as winter storms move in, you’ll want to check that elsewhere plants and trees, fences and out buildings/ sheds are repaired and sturdy to avoid damage.

Flowers for next year…

It almost goes without saying that now is the best time to plant a whole range of spring bulbs from daffodils and tulips to narcissus and hyacinths. Tulips particularly need re-newing every year or two if you leave them in the ground, as they tend not to last too long in the soil.

Plant spring bedding in prepared ground or pots.

Lift dahlias only after the first frost and store them over winter in cool, dry, dark conditions, ready to be planted out again next year. In mild areas if you overwinter them in the ground they may flower later and will require a straw mulch to insulate them from the worst of the cold.

Prunings and cuttings…

You can take hard wood cuttings now and also check any soft wood cuttings taken earlier in the year to see if they need potting on.

Prune climbing roses if you haven’t done so already.

October is also reall y the last month to trim hedges and to cut the lawn.

Pondlife…

Net your pond if possible to prevent leaves falling into it. Where netting isn’t possible sieve leaves out regularly to prevent them clouding the water. Remove tender aquatic plants to the greenhouse or other sheltered spot for the winter. Any plant material you remove leave on the side of the pond for 48 hours to allow pond life to return to the water.

Gathering food and sowing for next year…

Plant out spring cabbages and enjoy harvesting apples, nuts, grapes and pears.

Move citrus plants indoors now befrore the frosts.

Harvest pumpkins and squashes.

Divide rhubarb crowns.

Now is the ideal time to plant fruit trees.

Inside…

Now the days are shortening we’re spending more time indoors so don’t forget to reduce the amount of water you give houseplants. Those that like high humidity will also benefit from being stood on a tray of damp gravel to compensate for the increased use of central heating.

And one last thing…

Consider taking photos and notes of your garden. October is a great month to see the stucture of the garden as foliage dies off, but also to remember how plants looked in their prime. It can be a valuable tool for planning next year’s display and remembering what worked and what didn’t.