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Garden and grounds maintenance throughout the year.



October

The autumn chill sets in

Although we had some warmer days over September, the autumn is now definitely here for real, and it feels colder. It's a beautiful time of year, with the trees changing colour. Sometimes it may seem pointless raking, when the wind blows even more leaves onto the lawn, but just think of all the lovely leafmould you can make! It's also time to start preparing for early frosts.

Top 10 jobs this month

Lawns

scarifying a lawnImproving

In many colder areas, this month is the last opportunity to scarify, aerate and top dress lawns. Scarification removes layers of thatch and can be done with either a spring-tine rake or a powered scarifier.

Feeding

Afterwards apply an autumn lawn feed; these are low in nitrogen, so discouraging lush green growth that would only succumb to cold and diseases over the winter months.


Sowing

This is definitely your last chance to sow grass seed in mild areas of the UK. Cover newly sown areas with clear polythene to protect them from cold or fierce rain, if these are forecast in your area. Light to moderate rain will aid germination.


Mowing

This is the last chance to mow recently sown grass areas, to neaten them up before the winter. Don’t cut lower than 2.5cm (1in). Top-dressing with the mower will also prevent weeds getting out of hand.

Troubleshooting

Rake fallen leaves off lawns before they block out light and air penetration to the grass. On large lawns a leaf-blower will make the job much easier, but only powerful models are capable of shifting leaves from damp lawns.

To assist walking over lawns plagued with worm casts or muddy areas, consider laying paths or stepping-stones across main routes of access, so that the lawn is not spoiled by treading in the winter weather.

Toadstools and fairy rings appearing in the lawn may be a sign that scarification and autumn lawn care is necessary.

It is too late to apply a weedkiller now - effectiveness will be much reduced. A final mow will keep weeds in hand until the spring, when weedkillers can again be used.

Trees and shrubs

Planting a bare root rosePlanting and moving

October is an ideal time for moving and planting trees, shrubs and climbers, as well as for hedge planting.

Bare-root - Deciduous trees and shrubs, as well as root-wrapped evergreens, become available towards the end of the month, so you could think ahead and prepare the ground for them now. They are cheaper than containerised plants, and are the perfect choice whenever large numbers are needed - perhaps for a new hedge, woodland or a rose bed.

Containers - You can still order containerised trees and shrubs, and large semi-mature specimens, for planting over the winter.
 


pruning out dead material on a rosePruning and training

Last chance to trim deciduous hedgesto keep them looking tidy over the winter.

Climbing roses should be pruned now if not done last month.

Shrubs normally pruned hard in the spring such as Buddleja davidii, Cornus alba, and Lavatera, can be cut back by half now, to prevent wind rock and to neaten their appearance.

 

box cuttingsPropagation

Take hardwood cuttings of plants such as RosaCotinusSalix and Forsythia.

Check softwood and semi-ripe cuttings taken earlier in the season. They may need potting on, or selective removal of individual plants that have succumbed to rot (in order to prevent cross-infection).

Berries, fruits and seeds can be gathered from trees and shrubs, once ripe, for immediate sowing. Colutea (bladder senna), Laburnum, Morus (mulberry) and Sorbus (rowan) are all suitable examples.
 


turning the compost binGeneral maintenance

If the weather is dry, keep watering early-flowering shrubs such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, so that flower buds are initiated successfully for blooms next spring. Use recycled or stored rainwater wherever possible.

Check tree ties and stakes before winter gales cause damage.

Place healthy fallen leaves on the compost heap or into separate pens for rotting down into leafmould. Shredding leaves first with a shredder or mower will help them break down quicker.
 


honey fungus toadstoolsPest and disease watch

Garden hygiene helps prevent pests and disease being carried over from one year to the next. Rake up and destroy - do not compost - any affected leaves. Diseases such as black spot on roses, leaf blight on quince, and scab on apples and pears can all be partially controlled in this way.

Honey fungus toadstools begin to appear in late September and early October, indicating possible areas of infection. However, there are also many harmless, saprophytic fungi appearing at this time of year, living purely on dead material and pose no threat to garden plants. If the plants look healthy, then there is unlikely to be cause for concern.

Watch out for fungal diseases such as grey mould (Botrytis) or powdery mildew. Although less common on shrubs than on herbaceous plants, they may still cause problems when the weather is conducive.

Cultural controls are more effective than sprays at this time of year. Pruning to increase ventilation, and prompt removal of affected leaves, flowers or fruits is crucial. When pruning, take the opportunity to examine branches for signs of disease. Small cankers, die-back, and rotten, hollow stumps at the centre of old shrub bases, are best removed early on, before they spread.

Greenhouse, conservatory & houseplants

Houseplants

Hyacinth 'Royal Navy'Reduce watering of houseplants as the days shorten and growth slows.

Stand tropical houseplants on trays of wet gravel to counteract the drop in humidity when the central-heating comes on. Grouping them together can also help to create a more humid microclimate.

Pot up prepared hyacinth bulbs if not done last month. This way you will have them flowering for Christmas or New Year.

Plant up containers with Hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulbs for a New Year display.
 


cleaning greenhouseIn the greenhouse

Sweet peas can be sown early, in the glasshouse, for next spring. Keep and eye out for mice digging up the seeds for food.

Remove any shading paint applied earlier in the season, in order to maximise reducing light levels late in the season.

Greenhouses can be insulated using plastic bubble wrap. This will cut down the heating bills for the winter, but do make sure to attach the polythene in such a way as to minimise the amount of light blocked out by strips of tape etc, as the wrap itself will reduce light levels somewhat.

Check that the greenhouse heater is still working. Get electric or gas heaters serviced if necessary.

Ventilate greenhouses and conservatories during the remaining warmer days, but reduce ventilation once cooler, gusty autumn weather sets in.

Damping down becomes unnecessary as the month progresses. It is best to water or damp down the floor earlier in the day, so that the greenhouse is dry by evening.


glasshouse red spider mitePest and disease watch

Dampness during the cool nights could be a recipe for fluffy grey mould (Botrytis) and damping off of seedlings.

Check and pick over plants regularly, removing pests, yellowing or dead leaves and faded flowers before rots develop. Slugs are often found lurking underneath pots.

When bringing plants inside, check carefully for pests and diseases they may have picked up in the garden, particularly red spider mitemealybug and scale insect.

Unhappy looking plants can always be tipped out of the pot to examine the rootball for signs of over- or underwatering, or for soil-based pests like vine weevil.

Clean the glasshouse if not done last month, to prevent pests and diseases from overwintering in nooks and crannies.

Take care when watering indoor plants, not to wet the leaves (although this is not a problem with foliage houseplants where you are trying to increase humidity around the leaves). They will take longer to dry out in the cooler weather, and dampness could promote development of fungal disease. It is also best to water in the morning, so that the plants have time to dry off before the cold nights.








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