October is often a very balmy month and can often put July and August to shame. The days are much shorter and this limits evening working time, but if the weather is fine and dry you can achieve quite a lot in a fairly short time . All the jobs we do now are really in preparation for winter; once done we can relax……maybe?
Lawns need some special attention at this time. The grass has more or less stopped growing now but beneath the green sward the grass is concentrating its energies on strengthening its root system, partly to help it withstand the rigors of the coming winter and partly to prepare itself for the following growing season. One important operation that can greatly enhance this process is ‘aeration’ This is achieved by getting some air down into the soil; there are various ways of achieving this, the easiest is to get a garden fork and go over the area of the lawn pricking it to a depth of about 50-60 mm and then gently lifting the grass by levering the fork down by about 300 mm.
This allows the ground to suck in some fresh oxygen and also leaves any compaction that has occurred from mowing operations during the summer; this spiking needs to be repeated about every 450 mm over the area of the lawn. If you don’t fancy using the fork method you can buy a simple Hollow Tine Aerator which is. as it suggests, a row of hollow steel tines with a foot plate above and then a handle which you simply push into the lawn to a depth of about 60 mm and when you pull it out it brings with it little plugs of soil which leaves small holes in the sward which then give access to air and also relieves compaction ; the small plugs of soil are then brushed back into the grass .
The prices for these tools range from about £12.00 up to £30.00 , or if you have a large area of lawn to tackle you can invest in mechanical ‘lawn aerator ’ ranging from electrically driven machines to large attachments which will fit onto ride on mowers ; the prices of these range from £150.00 up to £3-400.00 . Which ever way you undertake this task it will more than repay your efforts by giving your lawn a strong and healthy root system, which is by far the most important element of any lawn, large small, sporting or just ornamental. As a bonus to improving the growth in your lawn aeration also helps to eliminate moss.
One final operation to undertake with your lawn is to apply a light Autumn Lawn Food dressing. These fertilizers are formulated to aid root growth and also to help combat moss growth.
Leaves are falling and need dealing with. My own view on fallen leaves is to let the ones that fall on cultivated areas – borders, vacant ground, shrubberies , tree areas etc stay where they fall ; they are natures own mulch dressing and her way of preserving some warmth in the ground for the coming winter; they may blow around a bit during very windy weather, but by and large they stay were they are and in my opinion do far more good than harm. The only exception to this is leaves on lawn areas; it
is not a good idea to let these remain, they can suffocate the grass and introduce unwanted pathogens into the sward. If you have the facility to do so then please gather them up and compost them either on their own or introduce then to your normal composting regime . There are however a couple of varieties of leaves that are difficult to compost and may need separate treatment: they are Horse Chestnut, Beech and Hornbeam .
Autumn Pruning : This is really only a matter of tidying up bits and pieces of overgrown shrubbery and tree growth and also giving your roses a semi-prune , that is to say removing about 50% of their growth just to keep them tidy and less prone to wind rock -always make your pruning cut just above an out facing bud.
Kitchen garden or allotment tasks are mostly a matter of keeping things tidy. There will be some late harvesting to undertake: Late crop Carrots and other root vegetables to lift and store .There are various ways of storing root vegetables and you can buy really quite attractive storage bins now which are designed for this purpose , but the most important things to remember when storing root veg. are : Frost free environment with a constant temperature of between 5 and 8 degrees centigrade : Light free : Plenty of Air circulation : A Dry atmosphere . If you can achieve all these criteria then it should be possible to store root vegetables for as long as you need to .
Raspberry canes will need tying onto their support wires.
Plant over wintering Brassica plants – Greyhound Cabbage, Purple Kale, Perpetual Spinach and spring Cabbage, and not forgatting – if you haven’t already done so Brussel Sprouts .
It is also a good time to plant Japanese onion sets – if you can get them -though be warned this is not an easy crop to grow, but if you have a well drained soil in a sunny area then they are well worth a try.
The best variety is called Senshyu Yellow which is a large globe onion and if planted now will be ready for harvesting a good 4-5 weeks earlier than normal main crop varieties. Plant the sets 10 cm apart in rows 30 cm apart and just leave the tips of the bulbs showing above the ground. The main threat to the bulbs at this stage is curious Blackbirds and Thrushes who may think they are worms and tug them out of the ground, so keep an eye on them for a few weeks until they have enough roots to hang on to the soil.
Greenhouse operations are again a matter of having a tidy-up. If you still have any Tomatoes remaining on their vines then it might be a good idea to consider using the last of the crop for making chutney as the green and red fruit can both be used and there will not be much sunlight left now for ripening the remaining fruit.
Christmas flowering Chrysanthemums should now be in the greenhouse, and you will have to protect them from any danger of frost. Chrysanthemums in their natural flowering season are a passion of mine and I will be expounding on this subject in the new year when it will be time to start the growing process .
Bulb planting should be well under way with priority given to the smaller and earlier flowering bulbs such as Snowdrops, Crocus etc . The main bulb plantings of Daffodils Narcissus and Tulips can wait until November and can even be done successfully up to the end of January !
At this time of the year hard paved areas often become slippery with green slime and this can be quite dangerous. The simple answer is to spray the troublesome areas with an algy killing compound of which there are quite a few; I always use ’Patio Magic’ as it is easy to apply and will also kill off any small weeds lurking in the cracks of the paving- there is also a compound called ‘Decking Magic’ whose clue of use is in the name!
If you love Strawberries, as I do, now is the time to propagate by pegging down some nice strong runners. This method of propagation is called Layering . From each main strawberry plant you will notice , spreading from it, a number of long stems each with small strawberry plants growing from them at 15 cm or so apart ; these are the runners and are the next generation of strawberry plants . You can get up to eight or ten young strawberries plants on each runner, but they tend to get weaker as they progress along the stem so I only ever use the first three or four for layering . Select the runners you are going to use and then chop the rest off. If you look under each runner plant you will see the start of the root formation ; push this gently into the ground or the pot and weight it down with a small stone or make a staple with some soft wire and use this to secure the plantlet . The runners will take about four to five weeks to establish and when you can see that they are well rooted then this is the time to sever them from the mother plant . You can layer strawberries either by pegging down your chosen runner in neat rows at the side of the existing strawberry bed, or get some 13 cm pots filled with John Innes number 3 compost and peg them into these ; if you do the latter it is a good idea to sink the pot into the ground a few centimetres to avoid it blowing over . The choice of either pot or ground really depends on weather you just want to enlarge the existing bed, or plant a new bed in another part of the garden , in which case you are better to use the pot method. The best time for planting you new strawberry be would be in February.
Finally; with all the Autumn leaves falling everywhere, it is a good idea to cover your pond with some sort of netting to stop the water being choked and contaminated. Leave the netting in place until well into April as loose leaves will still be blowing about until then.
See you in November.