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.


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.


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.


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.


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 hedges to 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.


tap and hosepipeManaging water

Clean water butts by emptying them and spraying out with a jet nozzle on the hose or scrubbing them with a brush. They will then be ready to catch the extra water expected at this time of the year.

Drain out standpipes and irrigation lines to avoid damage caused by water freezing inside them. Roll up and store plastic hoses.


Mend any broken or rotted pieces of wood in the structure of the compost bin, or in slatted wood garden furniture, if not done last month.

If you have not yet fixed or replaced any shed roof leaks, broken glasshouse panes, or worn glazing putty and lost glazing clips, then now is your last chance to do so before the greenhouse is full of tender plants for overwintering. More on cleaning the greenhouse.


Get your lawnmower, hedge trimmers (plus any other power tools not needed over the winter) serviced now in preparation for next year.

Garden waste

Turn the compost heap to speed its decomposition.

Consider building a post and chicken wire leaf pen for autumn leaves. They turn into leafmould - very useful as a soil improver or as an ingredient in potting and seed composts.