Autumn is one of our favourite seasons. If the weather is kind to us, the nights can be cold and crisp and the days bright and sunny with just a hint of autumn. The colours are stunning, with all the leaves starting to turn. It’s the season of long, blustery walks, foraging in hedgerows for blackberries and piling up produce such as apples and pumpkins for use over the winter. There’s still plenty to do in the garden too, to help transition from summer to autumn. Here are our top tips for what to concentrate on this month.
Plant a tree
October is a great month for planting out shrubs and trees. They’ve got time to get bedded in before the winter frosts arrive, but they’re past the droughts of summer so won’t want for water. You can order bare-rooted trees for planting at this time of year. These are generally cheaper than buying container-grown varieties but you may have to order them in advance. Bare rooted trees don’t like sitting around unplanted, so prepare the ground before they arrive. Dig the hole (or trench, if you’re planting a hedge), add a little compost at the bottom and source some suitable stakes if necessary. Once your plants arrive, plant them as soon as you can – if you have to leave them for a few days, soak them every day in water to stop the roots drying out. October is also a great time to plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses and more.
Certain plants will benefit from pruning at this time of year. Deciduous hedges such as beech can be trimmed now so that they look tidy over the winter (don’t leave it any later or the frost may damage them). You can also cut back roses, if you haven’t already done so, and buddleias.
We’ve had an unusually dry September, and early flowering plants such as rhododendrons may need still need to be watered into October to help keep them healthy for flowering in the spring.
Leaves are probably starting to fall in your garden. Left unattended a layer of leaves will damage the lawn, so rake it up regularly and add the leaves to a compost heap. If you end up with huge quantities you can shred them first with a leave shredder; this not only reduces volume but also helps them to break down faster. Keep an eye out for any leaves which look mouldy, are covered with black spots or look generally unhealthy. They may have fallen victim to a fungal disease and should not be composted with the healthy leaves. Keep them separate and add them to your council garden bin or burn them if you can do so safely.
Is it time to put the garden furniture away? If so, give it a final brush down and cover it over or move it into a garage if possible. Check any tree stakes and fence posts to see if they’re sturdy enough to withstand winter storms. Give the lawn a final cut and leave it slightly longer than usual, this will help prevent damage from frost.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to hang up the bird feeders. Birds are still migrating and will be grateful for a high-energy snack on their journey. A source of fresh water will be appreciated, too. The garden can still look glorious at this time of year, especially if you have lots of acers or other colourful trees, so it’s worth putting a little effort in to keep it looking its best.
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