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Gardening in October: everything you need to do

House Beautiful (UK) logo House Beautiful (UK) 11/10/2018 The House Beautiful team
a close up of a flower: October is the time to order or buy your spring – plant outside for spring and inside in pots for winter colour. Plant now and you'll have flowers in your garden from February to May. © SEAN GLADWELL - Getty Images October is the time to order or buy your spring – plant outside for spring and inside in pots for winter colour. Plant now and you'll have flowers in your garden from February to May.

Gardening in October: Plant bulbs outside for spring and inside in pots for winter colour

Perennials

If you haven't already, this is the time to order or buy your spring bulbs. Plant now and you'll have flowers from February to May. The general rule is to plant at twice the depth of the height of the bulbs, so bigger bulbs go deeper into the soil, with the pointed end up. They can be planted together, but the order of flowering is:

  • January: Winter aconites
  • February: Snowdrops/Crocuses
  • March: Daffodils
  • April: Tulips
  • May: Alliums

Bulbs planted in the lawn can look pretty, but you won't be able to mow until after the flowers are gone and the leaves yellowed. If you cut the leaves off too early, the bulb won't be able to make the food it needs to store for growing next year. You could leave a swathe of lawn for bulbs and keep the rest of the grass cut. Another solution is to turn your lawn into a wildflower meadow so the summer flowers take over from the bulbs and grow up around them.

             

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Lift tender summer bulbs such as gladioli and dahlias and store in a cool, dry place. Traditionally this is the month to cut back perennials, but a new school of thought says leaving the dead stems is good for wildlife and may also provide protection for the roots. Traditionalists will claim the stems harbour pests and diseases. Horticulturally it makes little difference when they're cut back as long as it's done before new growth starts next spring.

a close up of a flower: Snowdrops © Trudie Davidson - Getty Images Snowdrops

Fruit and vegetables

Garlic bulbs and onion sets should be planted now, and transplant spring cabbages to their final position.

Harvesting

Dig up temporary summer crops – runner beans, root veg such as carrots and beetroot, and pumpkins and squashes. Leave vegetables that can be harvested into autumn and winter, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflowers. Pick the last of any summer crop fruits such as raspberries, apples and pears.

a close up of a fruit hanging from a branch: Apple tree © prohor08 - Getty Images Apple tree

Lawn

Clear away the leaves as any left on the lawn will damage it.

Watch: How indoor plants can boost your mental and physical well-being (Cover Video)

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Indoor bulbs

Experiment with bulbs in pots – try something unusual, or go for tried-and-tested crocuses, tulips and daffodils. These will flower indoors earlier than they would outside, so in January you'll have your own preview of spring.

Prepared bulbs – usually amaryllis and hyacinths – have been through a series of cold treatments to trigger the growing process and can be in flower for Christmas. When you plant them, remember they can get very top heavy so make sure the soil and pot are weighty enough. Finish off the top of the soil with a layer of grass or moss.

a person standing next to a banana tree: A box of hyacinth bulbs © G. Merrill - Getty Images A box of hyacinth bulbs

IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING...

....cover anything that might be damaged by frost. Most herbaceous perennials will be wintering underground and can be protected with a layer of bark compost. Bring small succulents indoors and protect larger plants such as tree ferns where they stand by tying horticultural fleece around their tops.

PLANT OF THE MONTH

Gaura: This is an amazing plant – it has a delicate filigree of flowers all the way through from May and will still be going strong until the first frosts. The more usual white variety is called Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies', though there are pink ones available too. 

a close up of a flower: Gaura lindheimeri var. siskiyou pink (white gaura) © Michael Davis - Getty Images Gaura lindheimeri var. siskiyou pink (white gaura)
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