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General tasks and garden maintenance for October

Now the Indian summer has finally ended, it’s time to give your garden some TLC. Winter is fast approaching, so you should try to carry out the bulk of the general maintenance tasks during October before the weather really sets in. Nut what should you be doing this month? Well, here are Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips for what you should be doing in the garden this month.

Tidy borders

Keep on weeding and have a gentle tidy up in your borders but do try not to disturb the natural order of the garden. Leave seed heads for the birds if you aren’t planning on collecting them and leave as much cover as you can bear for wildlife for winter shelter.

Fallen leaves can be left to rot down or collected for leaf mould, but diseased material should be cleared and burnt to prevent pests and diseases overwintering. Put the rest of your garden rubbish, other than woody stems in the compost.

Start your compost

If you haven’t already done so, start your compost going by buying a bin or building a partially enclosed area for a heap. It is vital to replace the goodness in soil after the growing season, and autumn produces masses of garden waste that will put invaluable organic richness back into the ground for next spring. Add a variety of different materials; spent vegetable and bedding plants, herbaceous leftovers, thatch, moss and cuttings from the lawn, weeds (but not the roots unless they have been through a shredder), hedge clippings, kitchen peelings and tea bags are all ideal.

Turn the compost once a week or so if you can, but never add diseased or pest-ridden material to your compost heap. The composting environment is the ideal habitat for garden pests and thy will thrive and prosper there. It’s far better to burn diseased and pest-ridden material.

Clean out the greenhouse

It really is worth cleaning out your greenhouse thoroughly now your greenhouse cropping season is over. A thorough cleaning will stop pests hibernating and re-emerging next spring. Wash the windows inside and out to allow maximum light in over the winter and scrub all benches, fixtures and glazing bars with disinfectant, making sure you hose the whole place down really well, especially dark and dusty corners. For effective fumigation, move all plants outside, shut the windows, light a sulphur candle in the middle of the floor shut the door and wait until the smoke and fumes have completely dispersed several hours later. After treatment your greenhouse should be pest free.

Prepare your soil for next year

As a gardener, your soil is your most precious commodity. So during October start digging in compost, manure and as much organic matter as you can lay your hands on to replace the goodness lost during the growing season. The earlier you start the better, especially if your soil is heavy. It can be left in a pretty rough state over the winter when the elements will break the clods down, making spring planting infinitely easier.

Watering

Given the rain we’ve been experiencing this week that hardly seems like an issue. However, it’s still important to keep an eye on your pots and containers in dry spells and check for wilting leaves. All plants that keep their leaves continue to transpire, so should not be allowed to dry out completely. So act now before it is too late.

Ensure trees or shrubs planted in the last couple of years on lawns or in areas of rough grass have a circle of clear earth around them – this should be kept clear to allow moisture to get to the roots. Mulching with bark or compost will help.

Planting

With the ideal planting conditions of autumn, that is, warm moist soil, October is the ideal time to plant container grown shrubs, trees, fruit bushes, perennials and bulbs. Even in damp conditions it is worth checking the root balls’ of shrubs and trees, to ensure they are adequately moist before planting. Heavy rain may get a plant wet, but it won’t necessarily penetrate a root ball that has been allowed to dry out. So Ladybrook Nursery’s advice is if the plant feels light, plunge into a bucket of water before planting.

Rake fallen leaves

If left to linger on the lawn for long, fallen leaves will turn the grass yellow. So don’t waste fallen leaves. Use them to your advantage. Avoid rose and evergreen leaves which take too long to rot down, but compost everything else. Given time fallen leaves decompose into fabulously rich leaf mould, and that is one of nature’s best soil conditioners. Leaves will compost naturally if they are sufficiently damp and have enough ventilation. Leaf mould takes about a year to mature (2 in the case of oak leaves), makes a great top dressing for woodland plants such as rhododendrons and is an excellent and cost-free home-grown substitute for peat.

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