What to do in your garden in October

Pumpkin 'F1 Becky' from Suttons 

Use this checklist of jobs to keep your garden looking its best in October. A great month to enjoy autumn harvests from your vegetable patch, it’s also time to start preparing the garden for winter as the mercury drops. Despite shorter days, there are still plenty of vegetable seeds to sow in October and it’s a great time to start growing flowers like hyacinths for colourful homemade Christmas gifts.


Flowering plants in October

  • Sow sweet pea seeds in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse this month to overwinter. Young plants will be ready to move outdoors in March or April.
  • Sow cyclamen seeds in a heated greenhouse now, for flowers next winter.
  • Early in the month, plant indoor hyacinth bulbs like ‘Pink Pearl’ or ‘Delft Blue’ into containers for bright, scented, Christmas displays.
  • Towards the middle of October, plant daffodil bulbs in the garden. Choose scented narcissus for sweet aromas, or try something new from our selection of unusual daffodils.
  • Plant crocus bulbs in borders and containers for bright jewel colours in the spring.
  • Plant up winter hanging baskets and containers using forget-me-nots, pansies, polyanthus, primrose, wallflowers and spring flowering bulbs.
  • Lift gladioli corms as soon as possible for drying. Remove any soil and cut back the old foliage and flower spikes. They can be stored through winter for replanting in late spring.
  • Lift dahlias tubers for storing after the first frosts. The hollow stems can be cut down to approximately 10cm (4″) above the tuber. Allow any water to drain out of the stem by standing the tuber upside down. When dry, store in frost-free conditions.

Vegetables in October

  • Plant garlic sets this month. Choose a hardneck variety for colder climates like ‘Carcassonne Wight’, and in warmer areas choose a softneck type like ‘Maddock Wight’.
  • Plant the onion sets ‘F1 Centurion’ and ‘Senshyu Yellow’ for crops next summer.
  • Sow broad beans in a sheltered area. Try RHS AGM winning variety ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ for long pods full of juicy beans early next summer.
  • Lift and store root crops such as carrots, beetroot and potatoes in a cool, dry place for use through the winter.
  • Cut down asparagus top growth to ground level this month. Mulch your plants thoroughly after cutting.
  • Sow green manure crops in empty beds to suppress weeds over winter. Dig the crop into the bed the following spring to improve the soil for planting.
  • Sow fast growing cress and alfalfa indoors on moist tissue. Cut your crop when it reaches an inch high.

Fruit in October

  • In milder areas, prepare the ground for planting bare root soft fruit plants. Select a well-drained, sunny position that’s not prone to late frosts. Dig over the area incorporating well-rotted farm-yard manure or compost, removing all perennial weed roots.
  • Erect plant supports for cane fruits such as raspberries, and carry on harvesting your autumn-fruiting raspberries through October.
  • Pick the berries of late fruiting varieties of blackberries as they ripen. Use netting to cover your fruit to keep the birds off. The blackberry canes can then be cut back to soil level and this year’s new canes can be tied in.
  • Harvest apples and other tree fruit this month. Handle fruit that you want to store over winter carefully to prevent bruising.
  • Take cuttings of soft fruit plants like gooseberries and currants to overwinter indoors.

Pots, baskets, and containers in October

  • Take down and empty summer basket displays as they start to decline in the cooler weather.
  • Plant up empty baskets and containers with autumn and winter bedding plants for a splash of colour through the colder months of the year.

October lawn care

  • Make any final sowings of grass seed early in the month in mild weather.
  • Apply a fertiliser to established lawns.
  • Reduce the frequency you cut grass as growth slows down.
  • Remove any leaves that have fallen onto the lawn and add them to the compost heap. Use a special lawn rake to avoid damaging the grass.

General October garden jobs

  • Move container-grown tender perennials, such as fuchsias and begonias, into a frost-free greenhouse now in preparation for the low temperatures that occur at night in October.
  • Pot up any tender perennials still in the border, and move into a frost-free space, under cover, to overwinter. 
  • Trim back any leggy or tall top growth on your perennial plants.

October pond care

  • Remove any water features from the pond this month and give them a good clean. Store in a frost-free place to protect them from frost damage. 
  • Take tender plants out of the pond and overwinter in a frost-free place. Keep the plant moist by submerging in water, or in damp sand or mud.
  • Continue to remove dead leaves from the pond surface.
Lead image: Pumpkin ‘F1 Becky’ from Suttons
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