It’s October, and it’s time to get in the garden and start on those Autumn jobs

by Ken C | Last Updated: 01/10/2021

When we look back at this summer or perhaps this year, what will we remember? Yes, the weather!

The one thing we can’t blame on the pandemic can we?

What a summer. Not good for the children’s holidays, but when we look at the crops that have been produced, vegetables have been great, and fruit plants that didn’t get clobbered by that late spring cold spell have produced fruit in abundance.

So what’s in store for us this month as Autumn days started last month in September with some leaf change and those heavy dews in the mornings.

Lawns need attention in the Autumn months. Remember to keep cutting, and treat them to some feed

Lawns have really greened up in the last month but this does not mean that we stop cutting them, don’t stop all winter. This does not mean however you have to be out every week. No, firstly start this month to raise the height of the cut. Then, watch the growth rate and if it slows, cut your lawn every two weeks or so on.

But remember, never cut when there’s frost on the grass or if the lawn is wet and or waterlogged. Leave it well alone.

If your lawn is full of thatch, that’s the dead grass that accumulates in the base of the grass, then it might be worth scarifying.

Hire a machine from someone like ToolStation for a day (they’re about £70) and you can do a lot of lawn in a day.

The scarifier cuts and pulls the thatch out leaving a real mess! Clear the mess by raking or, if you have a good rotary mower that will pick it up, run that over it and make your job that bit easier.

Clearing moss from your lawn is one of the best things you can do

Scarifying will also lift out the moss and this must be eradicated. So many options exist, use Miracle-gro Evergreen Mosskill which can be an easy way of treating the problem.

Alternatively you could use MO Bacter Instant which is very clever as it releases its nutrients over a ten to twelve-week period. It is very high in potassium which the moss ‘grabs’, and causes the moss to break down. The moss is then digested by bacteria in the ground which makes it works as a fertilizer for the grass.

Mo Bacter is produced by Viano, and is well worth trying.

It’s also worth working a lawn dressing into the surface of the lawn. Buy only one to take home and try a bag first. It needs to be dry and light so can be spread with the back of a rake and broom. I say this as I bought a well-known brand, several bags in fact, and they were damp and had large particles of recycled material mixed in. Terrible. In the end, I used quality screened topsoil.

The nights may be drawing in, so brighten the garden and plant some winter colour

In the flower department, later this month you might want to clear those annuals and plant some winter bedding.

Yes, it’s October and to think I’m suggesting planting winter bedding when it wasn’t that long ago that we used to start winter bedding at the beginning of September. So get those bulbs and bedding in now!

I still prefer Violas as they generally will flower most of the winter – even if you forget to deadhead them. However Pansies, with their smiling faces are just great, Forget-Me-Nots, wallflowers, Bellis in their pinks, reds, and whites, and we mustn’t forget Primroses and Polyanthus.

For bedding, the latter is my favourite because it tolerates the wet and snow so well.

Bulbs, if not planted already, need to go in the ground before the end of October

I like to think we have all planted our daffs by now, and it’s also good to plant some Tulips – and if you look hard enough, you’ll find there are still a few about.

As I told you last month, if planted deep enough (around 9″ / 20-25cm) Tulips can be left in for years and can be planted over the top with summer bedding at the appropriate time next year – what a time and energy-saving tip!

I like planting in heavy groups about six inches apart in single colours with at least seven bulbs in a group. When there eventually bloom, you will be amazed by the effect they create in mixed borders.

When I worked at the BBC, Peter Seabrook always used to tell me that the best time to plant Sweet Peas was the 23rd October! A bit precise don’t you think, so I just plant whenever I get the time during the month.

I plant them in pots and place them in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. A cold frame or greenhouse can really extend the growing season of any garden, so if you have the space consider knocking something up to do the job – you’ll thank me for it.

If you don’t already have one, or you don’t have the time or resources to build one, simply place the pots against a warm wall with some protection around them and they’ll soon germinate. When the first two proper leaves form, pinch out the top and you will get a better plant.

Keep till spring, and they are big enough to plant out.

Autumn is a good time to clear vegetable plots to help eradicate future pests and disease

October is a good month to get clearing the vegetable plot of finishing crops. Easily overlooked but it’s so important as it helps to eradicate future pests and diseases.

Remember to protect brassicas by netting them from birds otherwise, you will not have sprouts for Christmas, and what would winter be like without Purple Sprouting Broccoli?

I look after a small kitchen garden and the mint has gone to flower so I’ve cut that back ready for next year, and I’ve trimmed back the Thyme with a small pair of shears like these Fiskars Bypass Gardening Shears.

The Rosemary and Bay have grown like mad, and I’ve lightly trimmed them back for winter. If you have a Bay, why not trim a few leaves off, dry them and keep them in a bag for use in casseroles and stews this winter?

Put that empty greenhouse to good use

Talking of food reminds me that so many people have greenhouses sitting idle right through the winter.

Why not put that space to good use and grow some lettuce? I’d go for Arctic King from Thompson and Morgan, then maybe some spring onions like White Lisbon or Performer and, of course, radish.

If the weather is kind to us, and we get a little warmth during the month, the other veg I grow is Spinach – which I again used in salads. 

If you’re pushed for space in the garden, Potatoes in tubs can be fun. You won’t get many but it’s worth a try. And if the Garden Centre hasn’t cleared everything for Christmas, you might find some on offer!

If you’re thinking of planting soft fruit bushes and trees, it’s a great time of the year to do so as the ground is warm and the roots get a good start before winter really sets in. Kings Seeds in Essex have just won Gold at the Great British Growing Awards this year, and their range of soft fruit is excellent, I’ve grown Blackberry Loch Ness, but fancied the look of Blackberry Asterina. So time to get planting!

If you’re having any problems with your garden, I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have

Remember, if you have a gardening problem I’m here to help with any questions you may have related to gardening. Many of you will already know me from my 30-years with the BBC during which time I answered thousands of questions and helped hundreds of gardeners get the most from their gardens.

And in case you’re still wondering, yes! I do still enjoy gardening.

Happy gardening!

Ken Crowther is an award winning broadcaster, author and member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture. He has been gardening for over 50 years and his knowledge and experience are drawn on to provide advice and information about garden design, plants for all seasons, gardening techniques and gardening tips. Gardening with Ken's broad appeal means he reaches a wide audience across the UK from amateur gardeners to top level horticulturists.