Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Gardening Diary: October 2011


' For every fog in October, a snow in the winter.'

Rain, wind and cloud characterise our weather this month though there is often an Indian summer about the middle of the month when a short spell of mellow anticyclonic weather occurs. We must take full advantage of these gentle spells to carry out autumn digging. Soil thus dug over receives the longest benefit from winter frosts and reduces well for spring planting.

It is time to start tidying up the herbaceous border. I aim to complete this task by Trafalgar Day. It has long been debated whether top growth should be left on the plant for winter protection. I tend to cut back top growth and properly clean up the borders especially in our milder southern corner of the island. A tidier border I feel is healthier, less prone to harbouring disease and mould over the winter as well as allowing the soil to be forked over. Dahlias can be left until the foliage has blackened, though there is little point in leaving them beyond the end of the month as tuber growth will be completed by then. Around mid month we can start planting out wallflowers, polyanthus, forget-me-nots, sweet williams, canterbury bells, foxgloves and other similar plants which are grown as biennials or for a spring bedding display. Before putting these in, the soil should be dug to a spades' depth. Fertiliser may be added but only of the slow releasing types, i.e bone meal and not a quick release spring or summer fertiliser.

The vegetable plot. If you are lucky or industrious enough to have a light soil it may pay to make a sowing of onions during the first week of the month. The small seedlings often escape damage when bigger, softer stemmed plants collapse during winter. Push ahead with autumn digging. This is the time to dig in old manure or compost, especially important for brassicas, not too much for the root crops or you may end up with amusingly shaped vegetables next year. All main crop potatoes should now be lifted. Likewise late carrots and beetroot. Make the most of the last of the Runner and French beans by picking all sizeable beans daily, especially if frost threatens. The heavy rains and gales of September pushed over alot of Brussels Sprouts so firm staking is important. All brassicas need to be firmly in the soil, they greatly resent any movement or looseness around the roots. Any yellowing leaves should be removed on sight. All top growth on the asparagus beds can be cut down as it yellows. Top growth of Jerusalem artichokes can be cut down but no need to lift the roots as they can be dug as required. Beware of a surfeit of this root in polite company.

Sites for November planting of fruit trees should be thoroughly prepared now by digging in plenty of old manure and a good sprinkling of bonemeal. It pays to do this well in advance of planting to allow the mix to fester down. Likewise new rose beds should be thoroughly prepared, especially so on our heavy soil. Back in the day the earthy phrase was 'bastard digging' i.e. digging two spades deep whilst incorporating clinker, gravel, sand, paper, manure, leaf mould, old hops and shoddy. Hands up those who recently dug in their old pullovers and underwear as shoddy. Rambler roses can now be pruned and trained. The aim is to cut out as much of the growth that has already flowered. Those that make strong growth from the base should have the old stems cut out at ground level. Those which make little basal growth should have the old growth cut back to a point just above that at which strong new growth starts.

There seem to be jobs to do wherever one looks and we are losing three minutes light a day, so no tardiness in the garden please.

Content supplied by Ross Atabey from Green & Great Gardens your local landscaping and garden specialists. For further advice contact Ross on 07941 315214 01435 812 153 or visit