The lady gardener

October will see the clocks going back and glorious days with autumn colour and maybe even our first frost. It is a month spent clearing up after the summer and preparing your garden for winter and the spring ahead. Here’s what you need to be doing to keep it looking good.

Leaves on the lawn need to be cleared up regularly to prevent the grass from dying, so rake them off and put them on a compost heap, if you have one or in your green bin. They can also be used as food for your borders; put the leaves in a black bin bag, sprinkle them lightly with water and put a few holes in the bag, shake them a bit, tie the bag up and leave it alone for a year, when it can then be used.

Reduce the frequency of mowing and raise the height of the cut, but always try to brush away worm casts before mowing to prevent muddy spots. Give your lawn a pick-me-up and eliminate moss at the same time by using an Autumn Lawn Feed & Moss Killer. When the moss turns black, scarify with a lawn rake or on a large lawn you may wish to hire a machine. If you have compacted patches, spike with a garden fork – push the fork in as far as you can and repeat every 10 cm, this job is easier said than done on our soil at the Medmenham patch, which is full of stones.

October is the main bulb planting month, so plant bulbs now to give you an impressive display next spring. If you want a natural look throw handfuls of bulbs directly onto the lawn or soil and plant them where they fall. In borders, go for large clumps of bulbs, this will give you a much better display. Always plant in odd numbers, preferably groups of five or more. Planting bulbs in containers allows you to move your display into a prime position while they are in full bloom. After flowering, the containers can be moved out of view while the bulbs die back and become dormant. Use a good quality general purpose compost and mix in a handful of fine grit to improve drainage. Alternatively you can choose specially prepared bulb compost. Water bulbs in containers regularly as they begin to grow, and throughout their flowering period.

You can plant many different types of bulbs in the one container even if they require different planting depths. This will give you a nice mixed display and a longer flowering period. Try planting with winter pansies which will give colour while the bulbs are growing and they will also continue to flower while the bulbs are in flower.

Prune climbing roses and rambling roses once they’ve finished flowering and tie in the stems before autumn winds cause damage.

Borders need a good tidy before winter, cut back and remove all dying foliage and clear away any fallen leaves and debris which if not removed will encourage disease and give a nice home for slugs to over-winter.

The end of summer is a good time for planting shrubs, the soil is still warm and plants will establish rapidly. Make sure the root ball is thoroughly watered before planting and do continue with watering until the plant is established.

October is a good time to plant sweet pea seeds ready for next year’s growing season. Plant about 5 seeds in each 3” pot and leave them in an outside sheltered position. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails once the shoots start to show.

By the end of October you will need to remove all saucers from under pots and lift off the ground to prevent frost damage and help drainage. If the plants are slightly tender you can wrap the pots in bubble wrap and put fleece over the plants to help them through the winter.