Autumn is here, and the most important gardening tasks in October reflect that. It’s all about preparing the garden for winter and making sure the plants are either cozy under the roof or can survive the weather outside. Now begins the main season for propagating cuttings of trees and shrubs. In this article, we’ve summarized the most important gardening tasks in October to help gardeners get ready for winter!
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Gardening in October: Clean the greenhouse
Let’s start with October gardening in the greenhouse. Your greenhouse may have been bursting at the seams with tomatoes, zucchini and chili plants this summer, but now the chilies have moved inside for the winter and the tomatoes and zucchini are nearing their natural end, so it’s time to prepare the space for new winter additions on the greenhouse growing calendar. Tender perennials, cuttings and some seedlings will find their place there, as will dahlia and canna tubers and begonia tubers.
Spent tomato and zucchini plants that are not affected by diseases such as powdery mildew will go to the compost pile, and compost from the planting bag will be added to the beds as a soil conditioner. It no longer contains many nutrients, but it helps improve the structure and consistency of the soil. If you have soil beds in the greenhouse, weed them well and fertilize them with well-rotted compost and manure.
Once your greenhouse is empty, you should do this important gardening task in October – clean your greenhouse thoroughly , because a dirty environment can increase the risk of fungus and mold attacking overwintering plants. Wash down the glass inside and out to remove dirt and algae and let in as much light as possible. Do the same for the countertops. Then use a flexible plastic plant tag to wipe out the dirt between the glass panes.
Don’t forget to clear the greenhouse gutters of debris so that rain can drain freely into the rain barrels – this is the perfect time to learn how to build a rain barrel if you haven’t already.
Take care of your pots
Because of the way they are cultivated – close together and with limited amounts of food and water – potted plants are among the most vulnerable plants in the garden. In winter they are vulnerable to frost and waterlogging, and in milder periods they can be attacked by mold. Below are some simple measures you can take to protect your planters from the season’s weather:
- One way to insulate pots so they don’t crack is to line them with bubble wrap and make sure drainage holes are kept clear.
- Use pot feet to allow excess water to drain away and prevent the compost from becoming waterlogged.
- Watch for slugs during mild fall and winter months. Copper tape should deter them, but check the plants regularly.
- If it gets very cold, wrap pots in fleece and mulch with straw, removing it in warmer weather.
- You should also keep an eye on your hanging baskets and take them down and store them in a sheltered place if storms are forecast.
Fall and winter can be very dry, so you will need to water and feed the plants regularly until they go into hibernation in the depths of winter.
Top tip: Do not overwater the plants, especially if you use peat-free compost, which may look dry on top, but soaked under the surface. Symptoms of waterlogging are similar to those of drought – yellowed, wilted leaves – so in this case, stop watering and repot the plants, if possible, in fresh compost to which grit or perlite has been added to improve drainage.
Gardening in October: take cuttings from hardwoods.
Cuttings from plants are one of the most reliable methods of propagating deciduous trees and shrubs, including soft fruit bushes and roses. If taken now and grown either in pots or in the ground, they take up to a year to take root, but then they grow into robust young plants.
Hardwood cuttings are taken in the fall when the plants are dormant and their wood is mature and hardened so it can withstand cold weather. They can be taken at any time until late winter, unless there is a severe frost. If you are only taking a few cuttings , you can pot them in a mixture of seed and cutting soil mixed with grit or perlite. Alternatively, you can put the cuttings in a trench lined with sand in a sheltered area of the garden where they can remain undisturbed for the next 12 months.
Top tip: If you root hardwood cuttings in the ground, check them after the frost, as the soil around them may have cracked. If this is the case, simply tamp down the soil again so that the cuttings are firmly anchored in the ground.
Protect your fruit trees in October
There’s an old, well-worn joke that goes, “What’s worse than biting into an apple and discovering a maggot?” The answer, of course, is “discovering half a maggot,” and early fall is a good time to take steps to prevent that fate from befalling you next summer.
Several moths, including the frost moth and the March moth, lay their eggs in fruit trees between November and May . The wingless females crawl up the trunks to lay their eggs on the branches, and the caterpillars hatch in the spring when the tender buds open. These voracious caterpillars attack apple, plum, pear and cherry trees, eating leaves, flowers and fruit and severely damaging and weakening the trees, affecting the crop.
The easiest way to prevent this and protect your blossoms and fruit is to apply sticky grease tape around the trunks in October and November to intercept the females as they crawl upward. Then tie the tape at the top and bottom with the string provided. This will anchor the tape securely and prevent moths from crawling up underneath.
Make your own leaf mold in the fall
Every season has its own chores, and another important gardening task in October is removing leaves to make one of the most important raw materials for soil improvement: Leaf mold. Learning how to make leaf mold from fallen leaves can improve your garden. Remove leaves from hard surfaces, where they can become dangerous and slippery as they decompose, and from lawns, where they can cause grass to yellow and harbor pests and other problems.
Deciduous leaves have different properties and decompose at different rates. Beech, oak and hornbeam decompose fastest and best. Thicker foliage such as maple, walnut and chestnut takes longer to decompose. However, you can speed up the process by shredding it or running a lawn mower over it before collecting. Moisten the leaves in a garbage bag before setting them aside for a few years to turn into leaf mold.
There are two main options for storing leaves. You can build a permanent container out of four tree stakes that you wrap with chicken wire. Or you can get black plastic bags, poke holes in them and stuff them full of leaves. Put some water in them, tie the lids shut and stow them in an inaccessible place. It will take at least two years for the leaves to rot, but the end result is a nutritious, crumbly, dark leaf mold. If it takes longer, turn the leaves occasionally and moisten them during long dry spells.
Top tip: Save fallen pine needles and use them as mulch around plants that like acidic soil, such as azaleas, blueberries and rhododendrons.