News, Advice, Tips and Jobs For October 2021
Each year I am continuously updating my fact sheets so as October approaches there will be numerous updates to this fact sheet, so please do keep revisiting this page especially for the latest news and the jobs will change according to the weather and the season.
October's weather can be very variable and hardly seems to follow the same pattern from one year to the next. Some years it can be extremely wet. There may be fog and nearly always the likelihood of frost. In other years we may enjoy an Indian summer, with mild temperatures providing an excellent opportunity to carry out autumn digging work. Soil dug in early autumn will get the maximum benefit from winter frosts and by spring will be broken down and in a good condition for planting.
In October deciduous trees and shrubs provide us with one last spectacle: turning golden yellow, amber and even crimson. Finally, they fall, ready for us to gather and make further use of them in the garden. Over the next few weeks reasonable amounts of fallen leaves may be added to the compost heap and, where there are larger quantities available, they can also be used to produce leaf mould by heaping them in a corner of the garden where they can be left over winter.
If space is limited, leaf mould may still be produced. Use a dustbin liner or plastic sack and sprinkle a little compost accelerator between the layers of leaves. The filled sack should be tied tightly and left outside until next spring by which time the leaves should have decomposed sufficiently to make a useful garden mulch
With a once in a lifetime September Chelsea behind us, it is interesting to look back at some of the new plant introductions. For me the new Semponium, a hybrid between Semperviren cultivar and an Aeonium cultivar opens up a new world, here we see the hardiness of the Semperviren being matched with the taller but bushy habit of an Aeonium cultivar resulting in not one but two selections being shown.
Semponium 'Sienna named after Mark's daughter is the first and currently available from Surreal Succulents, the second named plant will be introduced next year. Semponium 'Sienna' was judged 3rd in the new plant 2021 competition.
The second plant is a large shrub bred in America by legendary Cercis breeder Denny Werner and is introduced to the UK by Hilliers who have passed it to many companies including Sutton Seed and Thompson and Morgan.
The young foliage of Cercis Canadensis 'Eternal Flame' emerges as red and then goes through all sheds to lemon yellow in the autumn. So it is an all season spectacular plant that is probably hardier than Cercis 'Forest Pansy' which also seemed to be a little happier in shade, whereas Cercis Canadensis 'Eternal Flame', thrives in full sun as seen recently in John Massey's famous garden at Ashwood. It was judged first as the best new plant in 2021
As of 26th of September we in the West Midlands are extremely dry and tasks such as autumn lawn maintenance is best delayed until we have received sufficient rain for the grass to recover from the very dry summer, other areas have been much wetter and lawn work along with other tasks can safely proceed.
Just because some gardening programmes such as BBC Scotland's Beechgrove has finished for the season does not mean gardening has stopped, there is still plenty to do, so please keep visiting up-to-date sites such as this for the latest information.
While September temperatures were some of the highest on record please remember winter will soon be upon us and don't leave it to the last minute to purchase winter protection such as fleece, the weathermen will cause fleece panic buying by mentioning frosts just as much as the recent shortage or fuel at the pumps, buy when you see fleece and pay more to get better insulation as those with heated greenhouse may not always have their heating supplies available.
Selection of Evergreens for planting in Garden Centre
THE ORNAMENTAL GARDEN
There is lots of work to be done in the herbaceous border and flower garden now. Yellowing stems can be cut down or left until spring to provide habitat for wildlife. Again fallen leaves can provide habitat and insulate the soil so in some areas such as shrubberies they maybe left while an accumulation of leaves may attract slugs presenting a danger to next year's growth. Fallen leaves, plant debris and weeds should be removed. The surface of the soil can be lightly forked over, taking care not to disturb roots.
Carnations and pinks can be planted in the beds prepared last month, although in districts with heavy soil it is preferable to keep pots in the cold frame and plant next spring. You could also sow a few pots of sweet peas to keep in the cold frame ready for next spring. Damaging frosts can occur anytime during October, so make certain that all dahlias and chyrsanthemums are clearly labelled ready for lifting. Cut any remaining flowers for arrangements in the house, and destroy any plants that show signs of disease.
Any remaining bulb planting should be finished as quickly as possible this month, except for tulips. They can wait until November. Lily bulbs may be grown-on in well-drained compost in the greenhouse, while lily seeds could be sown in rich well-drained compost and placed outside.
Old clumps of lily of the valley can be encouraged to flower more profusely if divided and replanted. Alternatively they should be top-dressed with compost. Yellowing foliage on gladioli indicates it time to lift them, especially the more tender varieties. The corms should be dried-off gradually, the foliage removed and young cormlets saved for growing-on.
Tender bulbs such as agapanthus will also over-winter more successfully if lifted and kept relatively dry in a frost-free greenhouse, and a few roots of canna could be lifted and potted, dividing first if necessary, and then kept in a frost-free greenhouse. Fibrous rooted begonias and impatiens should also be lifted, potted-up and brought indoors, and you might consider taking a few late cuttings of these and geraniums, fuchsias, heliotrope, gazanias, centaurea and abutilon.
Summer bedding plants should be removed to enable spring bedding to become established before winter sets in. Prepare the flower beds by incorporating a slow release fertiliser, low in nitrogen. If buying wallflowers, choose those with a good root system and remember that they like firm planting. Window boxes and patio containers can also be planted-up with wallflowers, pansies, polyanthus, myositis, aubretia and other spring-flowering bedding.
These could even be under-planted with a selection of dwarf bulbs to provide a colourful display over a longer period.
Continue to spray roses against aphids, mildew and black spot. Rambler roses should be pruned, cutting out as much of the old flowered growth as possible and tying-in the new shoots. Some cultivars do not shoot readily from the base, and these are best shortened back rather than being cut out.
Selection of Evergreens suitable for planting in a garden centre in October 2021
The planting of evergreens must be completed by the middle of October, but this is an excellent month to plan and construct a new heather bed or replant existing ones - heathers can be divided and replanted. Provided the soil is improved, there is no reason heathers shouldn't be replanted in the same areas.
Ground for planting with new rhododendrons and azaleas should also be prepared now, while existing rhododendrons and azaleas which are not making healthy growth should be treated to fresh peat, leaf mould and well-rotted manure. You could start planting deciduous trees and shrubs towards the end of the month, but avoid planting into wet or frosty conditions.
Finish trimming hedges this month, while the growth is still sappy and soft. Cuttings of buddleia, forsythia and philadelphus may be taken, inserting them in sandy soil in a cold frame or in the open.
With the arrival of autumn it is important to protect the pool from falling leaves by covering it with a mesh netting and collecting the leaves regularly for either composting or leaf mould production.
Towards the end of the month oxygenating plants should be thinned out and old water lily leaves removed. Continue to feed the fish as long as the food is being eaten.
The frequency of mowing should be gradually reduced. Before you do decide to bring the mower out of the shed or garage, clear the lawn of debris, fallen leaves etc and scatter any worm-casts and brush moisture off the lawn first. At this time of year the grass will also benefit from a good scarification, followed by aeration. Defective drainage systems should be rectified, even if it means laying new pipes. Good quality Autumn Lawn Fertilizers may be applied to toughen up the grass for winter and help prevent turf diseases occurring. Viano have an excellent range (my site is an independent site, no funded links or sponsorship)
October is also the best month for laying new turf or repairing any that is damaged. Carrying out the work now will ensure the sods have time to settle into the soil before winter. Prepare a weed-free bed, allow it to settle and then apply a suitable pre-turfing fertiliser to the surface, and rake it in gently. The turves should be laid in the same way as brickwork, fitting them together closely and tamping - not beating.
THE VEGETABLE GARDEN
Spring cabbage can be planted out this month, remembering that it prefers a firm soil. Yellowing leaves should be removed from growing brassicas. These plants will benefit from a general fertiliser applied now, and a watch must be kept for fly and root pests. Take action as soon as you are able to identify the pest and, when the soil is reasonably dry take the opportunity to hoe between rows of cabbages to control weeds. In exposed situations, Brussels sprouts may need staking to prevent wind rock damaging the roots.
Cloches can be used to prolong the cropping season of certain vegetables, including lettuces and French beans, until November. Others must be picked and used or stored. The last remaining outdoor tomatoes, for instance, should be picked and allowed to ripen indoors. Beetroot should be lifted with a fork and then stored, having first twisted off the tops. Late carrots also need lifting storing now and any remaining potatoes should be harvested, allowed to dry off and stored in hessian or paper sacks.
Celeriac also needs lifting this month. It should be stored in damp sand for use during winter while onions may be ripened and store on ropes. Keep on eye on both the onions and the shallots you are storing and remove any which show signs of disease or damage. Consider planting autumn onion sets now: they will be ready for harvesting next June.
The top growth from Jerusalem artichokes should be cut down to about 1ft above ground as soon as the leaves have turned brown. The roots can then be lifted as required. In severe weather, a covering of straw or soil will help to protect the stem bases.
As crops are lifted, so the ground can be dug as it becomes vacant. Green manure crops can be dug directly into the soil, adding nitrochalk to help the process of decomposition. Now is also a good time to start drawing up the plans for next year's vegetable garden, bearing in mind the necessity for crop rotation.
In mild areas it may be possible to sow early peas under cloches. You might also consider sowing winter lettuce now, covering it with cloches later in the year.
Earth-up celery and leeks for the last time and remove all growth from the asparagus beds as the foliage turns yellow.
THE FRUIT GARDEN
With orders placed for autumn delivery of fruit trees and bushes, now is the time to start preparing the sites by double digging and incorporating manure plus a little fertiliser.
Remaining tree fruit should be collected carefully and sound fruit stored. You can tell that an apple is ripe if it readily parts from the spur. If it isn't quite ready, leave it for a few more days and try again. The trick is to gather the fruit when it is ripe but before a gale does the job for you!
Don't forget to check stored fruit regularly and use or dispose of any which show signs of damage or disease. It is worth noting that pears store best when they are placed 'tail end up'. If they are left on their sides they tend to spoil very quickly. Walnuts should be harvested and stored in boxes in a cool place.
Inspect the apple and pear trees carefully, pruning out any branches which are infected with canker and applying a fungicide wound sealant to any large cuts. Wall fruit also needs attention this month. Peaches should be pruned and all new growths tied-in. After the leaves have fallen, it is worthwhile spraying the trees against leaf curl. Morello cherries should also be pruned and tied-in, remembering that they fruit on one year old laterals.
Hardwood cuttings may now be taken of gooseberries and blackcurrants. In the strawberry patch attention is needed to ensure newly planted strawberries are not allowed to dry out. Unwanted runners on existing plants should be removed and the beds tidied, removing old foliage and weeds.
It may be necessary to thin out raspberries by cutting out old fruited growths. Autumn-fruited varieties should be harvested, but the canes of these are best left until the spring before cutting them down. Make sure that new growths on loganberries and blackberries are tied-in securely so they are not damaged in winter gales.
THE INDOOR GARDEN, GREENHOUSE AND CONSERVATORY
Now is your chance, before the onset of winter, to fumigate the glasshouse thoroughly. Clear away any remains of indoor tomatoes, burning the haulms and using the contents of the growing-bags wherever appropriate. Use smoke cones eliminate pests and diseases, and wash down all surfaces with a suitable disinfectant. Remove any remnants of greenhouse shading. Keep the house well ventilated, and remember that pot plants, in general, will require less feeding as winter approaches
Depending on what you have in the house at the moment, you may need to provide some heat if the weather turns frosty. Tender plants such as geraniums, solanums, fuchsias etc, which have spent the summer outside, must be brought under cover the minute frost threatened. Geraniums can be boxed or potted-up for the winter. They should be kept fairly dry and they must be kept in a temperature no lower than 39-45°F.
The watering of fuchsias should be reduced gradually, but never let them dry out completely: they need to be encouraged to rest so they can be pruned and potted early next year. Remove and destroy any yellowing foliage from fuchsias, cyclamen and geraniums. Any more rooted cuttings of fuchsias and geraniums should be potted-up now.
Chyrsanthemums should also be brought indoors before frost threatens and petals show colour. They should be kept cool, sprayed regularly with a combined insecticide/fungicide and fed until petals begin to show some colour. The side buds should be nipped-off to leave 10 or 12 shoots per plant.
Stop spring-flowering annuals, such as schizanthus, to encourage the formation of sturdy bushy plants.
Pots of achimenes can be dried-off now, taking care not to lose the tiny tubercles. Cannas should also be gradually dried before storing under the staging for the winter. Although they are out-of-sight, they should be out-of-mind. Don’t allow the compost around cannas to become dust dry.
Once the foliage of tuberous begonias and gloxinias has withered, remove the tubers from pots, shake off the compost and dust with flowers of sulphur. Then store them in a cool atmosphere.
Cinerarias and stocks should be potted-on, remembering to water cinerarias carefully to prevent collapse, and check bulbs which were planted into bowls last month to see if they require watering. Now is a good time to plant early double tulips, daffodils and more hyacinths into pots and containers to provide indoor flowers for the spring.
It's not too late to take a final batch of viola and pansy cuttings, placing the pots into a cold frame. Another one for the cold frame is mint. Established clumps of mint can be lifted and potted-up. It prefers a temperature below 60°F. Similarly a few roots of parsley could be lifted and grown in the cold frame for winter use. Always make sure that the cold frame is closed at night in case of frost.
Keep a watch for signs of slug damage both in the cold frame and in the greenhouse. Treat accordingly.
Looking good this month:
Alnus maritima, A. nitida, Arbutus hybrida, A. unedo
Berberis stenophylla autumnalis, Calluna vulgaris and varieties, Daboecia polifolia, Daphne mezereum autumnalis, Desmodium spicatum, Elaeagnus macrophylla, E. pungens, Erica vagans and varieties, Escallonia macrantha, escallonia hybrids, Ulex europaeus plenus
Clematis calycina, C. chinensis, C. flammula, C. Jackmanii hybrids, C. lanuginosa hybrids, C. vitalba, Jasminium officinale.
Aconitum autumnale, A. Wilsonii, Anemone japonica and varieties, Aster cordifolius, A. novi-belgii (Michaelmas daisy), Helianthus multiflorus varieties, Kniphofia maxima globosa, Scabiosa caucasica and varieties, Sedum spectabile and varieties.
Colchicum autumnale, C. byzanthinum, C speciosum varieties, Crocus longiflorus, C. speciosus, Cyclamen cilicicum, Leucojum autumnale, Nerine bowdenii
Achillea tomentosa, Gaultheria procumbens, Geum borisii, Lithospermum prostratum varieties, Viola gracilis
(C) 2021 This material has been produced by Howard Drury and must not be reproduced in part or full without the written consent of Howard Drury, Kings Heath, Birmingham, B13 0SJ.