With noticeably shorter days and cooler temperatures, it’s time for the garden to wind down. This means catch-up too, and the chance to get planning and planting in earnest, but also tidying, as you now have time to do all the things you didn’t quite get around to. October may be action-packed, but it’s also a little more relaxing.
Flowers, beds and borders
Many perennials are now looking well past their best, often under serious attack from mildew. Some, like Michaelmas daisies, Phlox and Bear’s Breeches or Acanthus, may be so seriously under attack that their leaves look as if coated in flour. At this time of year it won’t reduce the plant’s vigour significantly, but it is worth cutting them back as it may reduce the problem next year.
Flopping foliage and general end-of-year dieback in beds and borders makes for a perfect feeding and hiding place for slugs and snails. This means it’s a perfect spot to look for these pests and collect them up to reduce numbers and so cut back on the damage they do in the next few weeks and next year. They are more active after rain (or after you’ve watered), so choosing the right time to go collecting will pay off.
Continue planting spring flowering bulbs. They really are fantastic value and can transform any part of your garden each spring. If you can spare the space, why not plant a few specifically for cutting and bringing inside? Even just a square metre or two can produce a great ‘harvest’ of easy-to-grow favourites such as narcissus, tulips, snowdrops and iris.
Fruit and vegetables
It’s time to sort the strawberries. They really do benefit from a serious tidy up at this time of year. Pick or cut off any leaves showing reddish purple or purple-brown spots or blotches as these may be harbouring leaf spot disease. Use sharp secateurs to remove any remaining runners from the original plants. Doing this should help to keep the main plant in top condition for good cropping next year. If the runners look healthy, you could try rooting them in individual pots; they may still root and can be used to increase the plant numbers in the spring.
Use a sharp spade to cut off a small section from well-established clumps of herbs such as chives, mint or parsley. Carefully pot each clump into a pot of good quality compost and water well. Kept on a really well lit windowsill and given an occasional dilute feed, these pots should provide a supply of garden-fresh herbs for several weeks or maybe even a couple of months.
If tomatoes, aubergines and peppers in greenhouses and frames have passed their best and are now showing signs of serious grey mould infection (fuzzy grey-brown fungal patches), then remove them promptly so that healthy plants can continue to crop.
Raising the height of the mower blades so that each cut is slightly longer than during the summer will make a real difference. Depending on where you live and how the year’s weather turns out determines just how long you’ll need to carry on mowing.
Toadstools often appear in lawns at this time of year. Most are perfectly harmless as far as the grass is concerned, but they can be brushed off using a flexible cane or old-fashioned besom, or hand picked even. Removing toadstools before their caps open fully will help to reduce spread of the spores. If the toadstools are growing in lines it suggests that they may be feeding on buried tree roots or other organic matter beneath the turf. If this is the case, the best long-term solution is to carefully remove the roots, fill in the gap left with well-firmed topsoil and then carefully replace the turf.