Gardening Tips

What’s your Autumn action plan? – Grow-how tips for October


Nights drawing in, Virginia creeper acquiring its bright autumn garb, a dankness in the air – it must be October!  We all know that the weather is liable to turn vindictive at any moment from now until at least March.

Let’s turn for solace to our seasonal gardening jobs such as covering the pond, and replacing your summer bedding plants………

Pond pampering

There simply isn’t a better way of attracting wildlife into your garden than by having a pond, whatever its size.  Because of this summer’s hosepipe ban, our small garden pond is still below the level it should be, but winter rains should correct that.  Nevertheless it has still been a haven for frogs, water-snails, dragonflies and their larvae and a myriad of other small creatures, and I want to keep it like that for another year.

Even small ponds bring loads of water loving wildlife into your garden, but it might be time for a clean-up

October is a good time to overhaul your pond – principally to prevent it becoming a bog garden (which every pond aspires to be eventually).  Wildlife such as fish, frogs etc. won’t need clumps of weed or waterlilies to protect them from the sun and their activity has slowed up. They won’t have entered hibernation yet, though, so you won’t be disturbing life-cycles too much by having a bit of a clean-out now.

Scoop out any dead or decaying leaves and vegetation and reduce the amount of silt that has built up over the last few years.  Pull up the roots of plants that have taken over too much: this might be easier said than done – Iris pseudacorus and lots of reeds, for instance are VERY tough. I have found an old kitchen bread knife a handy thing to have about my person at such moments! 

Clear out old leaves and vegetation which can gradually turn your pond into a swamp

Always leave this material on the side of the pond for a couple of days so that any little organisms can crawl back into the water.  This pile can then go on the compost heap for use in the garden borders – it’s full of nutritious goodies! 

Some guides advocate getting everything out of the pond, scrubbing the liner, filling it up and letting the water settle again before adding plants, fish etc. back again.  That all seems pretty extreme to me, and only necessary if the pond is so silted up that it is barely a pond at all. Having said that, I do have one little ‘pond’ that is in need of such drastic measures!  It would take at least a couple of years for the ecosystem to re-balance itself.

Pond cover applied to prevent leaves clogging up the water this autumn

Once I’ve done the ‘cleaning-out’ bits, I shall move a home-made chicken-wire frame into position over the pond to prevent the water from filling with tree leaves once they start to fall.  It has one corner without the wire so that any frogs can still easily get in and out of the water.  I’ll take the cover off again by early in the new year.

That’s it – all ready for pond perfection next summer – maybe!

Apple storing

Oooooh, look at the feature pic – we did have a lovely crop of apples this year! I took about 400 little apples off our ‘Fiesta’ tree in June, leaving one apple per cluster every 3-4” along the branch to develop to full size.  

Thinning the fruit to get a much higher quality crop

And we still had hundreds to pick in the last two weeks. Remember that the way to test if an apple is ripe is to lift it gently while it is on the tree; if the stalk breaks away easily, the apple is ready to harvest.

If you store apples carefully, they should keep well over the winter. Only store perfect fruit with no blemishes or bird-pecks etc. on them. Wrap each apple in newspaper to prevent them drying out or touching each other directly (you know what they say about ‘one bad apple….’).

Get busy storing your apple harvest – that’s a wrap!

Keep the apples in crates in a cool dark place – perhaps a rack in the shed if you have such a thing? Keep them away from other fruit or flowers – the ethylene gas they give off will ripen them more.  Do check over the apples occasionally to make sure your preparations were successful. Happy munching!

Gardening shorts

  • Cut back tall shrubs by up to a third (this can include leggy bush roses) so that they are less likely to get rocked by strong winds.  Don’t go anywhere near camellias, mahonias or spring-flowering clematis with your secateurs though, or you will cut off all next spring’s flowers!
A judicious cut-back – give the roses an autumn prune
  • Summer bedding plants will be faltering this month – dig them up and re-cycle them by putting them on the compost heap. Replace them by taking an indulgent trip to your local garden centre and browsing the winter bedding.  Or perhaps get some cheap little plug plants mail-order and grow them on in little pots or modules yourself? Grow them on in a protected spot and then harden them off ready to plant out into pots or beds a bit later. I made a short video about doing this – link is at the bottom.
Buy cheap little plug plants to grow on for winter bedding
  • Harvest the last of your tomatoes now and clear away the stems.  Green tomatoes can be put in a drawer or a shallow box inside, and they will continue to ripen. If you have long stems of them, cut the stems off and they can be left to ripen on the vine.
Harvest the rest of your tomatoes now
  • Keep dividing and replanting herbaceous perennials this month while there is still some warmth in the soil.
This is a GREAT time to divide your plants and get them established before the winter

Here is the link to a short video about dealing with plug plants.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

6 replies on “What’s your Autumn action plan? – Grow-how tips for October”

I love your blog! I see that it looks as though you are dividing grasses in the pic. I thought I’d read somewhere that grasses prefer spring to be moved? I have a great clump in need so would appreciate advice! Thanks.

Hi Caroline, Elaine here. Glad you like the blog – we do love writing it! No, I’m not dividing grasses in the pic, they are Hemerocallis – daylilies. You’re absolutely right – it is much better to divide grasses in the spring rather than autumn; what they really hate is to get damp and soggy in the middle over the winter and if you divide them now, you may well find that they have rotted before they have rooted, if you get my meaning.
It is a good idea to divide grasses every three years or so, especially ones like Carex, Festuca, or Stipa, because they can slowly lose vigour otherwise – late winter is a good time to have a go at those. If your grasses are those that don’t come into growth until later (such as Panicum or Miscanthus) then they can be left as late as early May before you start chopping them up! Good luck and happy gardening.

Hi ladies this blog !
Have already (sadly) removed my Albertine Rose as after 20 years was not a happy soul. I have always been uncertain as to how to prune different roses .I have a bed with the rambling Dame Judy Dench and a Chandos Beauty .There is another shrub rose but do not know the name .How should I prune these ?
Thank you ?

Hi Vanessa, glad you like our blog – please do keep spreading the word about us! I did the same as you with an old Albertine rose – lovely colour but my goodness, what a martyr it was to blackspot and rust – it had to go. Lots of gardeners cut back their shrub roses by a quarter to a third at this time of year, because the plants’ roots can get rocked about by strong winter gales. Dame Judy Dench is a gorgeous English rose bred by David Austin and a while back I talked about how I prune these. This is the link:
In that article I also mention ‘Chandos Beauty’ (Mary Berry’s favourite rose, I believe!) which I also grow. This, like other Hybrid Tea roses, gets a hard cutback in mid-February, taking all the stems back to a strong framework about 1yd (90 cm) off the ground, and cutting any stems that are growing into the centre of the bush right out. I think I would treat your unnamed shrub rose the same way, and see what happens. You certainly won’t kill it, and you may well find that it flowers better than it ever has done before! One little warning – if you live in a very cold area, it might be better to delay this late winter pruning until early March, because new shoots can get hit by a late frost. Good luck and happy gardening. Elaine

Love this post! I always like to remind our clients to trim back any large hedges this time of year. Every year I think we all forget just how treacherous the weather can be in the winter so it’s nice to be reminded of how to prepare for it!

Hello Neil, yes Elaine’s tips about hedge trimming are really paying dividends now that a lot of us are getting some extreme weather (Caroline’s currently snowed in at her place in the highlands). As a bona fide horticultural landscaping service it’s great to have your seal of approval, best wishes Laura

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