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Andrew Tokely's Gardening Tips for October 23 June 2020

Gardening tips for October include bringing in the last of the harvest this month, tidy up the garden and plot for winter and get started with next years crops and spring displays.

  1. As the nights are getting colder, before they turn very frosty, it is wise to check that the heaters in the greenhouse are working properly, or if you heat by Paraffin, check you have some standing by, and your wicks are clean. You won't want to get caught out if a frosty evening is forecast.
  2. October usually signals the end of those few last summer bedding annuals, growing in both borders and containers. Don’t leave your borders or containers empty as it is the ideal time to pull these plants out and replace them with some Winter flowering Pansies, small flowered Violas, Wallflowers, Bellis, Forget-me-Nots or Spring flowering bulbs like Daffodils, Tulips or Crocus so you have colour into next spring.
  3. If you have a herb garden or containers with herbs in, it is time for a tidy up. Annual herbs that have run to seed should be pulled up and discarded. Cut back any perennial herbs  to encourage new growth next spring. Evergreen Herbs like Thyme or Bay should have their seedpods and spent flowers removed. You can do this by simply giving them a trim with a pair of shears.
  4. I always think that October is the best time to sow Sweet pea seeds. If sown this month you will get a stronger plant that will flower earlier next spring. Another benefit of sowing sweeet peas at this time of year is you do not need a glasshouse or a heated propagator to obtain successful germination. All you need is a cold frame, or cloche to place your sown seeds under. I sow the seeds into pots or Root trainers filled with seed sowing compost. Once sown, place the seeds in the cold frame. They should germinate in 10-14 days. Sweet pea plants sown at this time of year can be kept in a cold frame all winter, until big enough to plant outside next spring.
  5. I like to sow some winter Lettuce Arctic King or Winter Gem under cloches or in a cold frame during this month, so I have some salads ready for an early harvest next year. Sow the lettuce seeds thinly in shallow drills; to grow on through the winter and these will be ready to harvest next March/ April. Another Salad you can sow at this time of year is Spring Onion White Lisbon Winter Hardy or Winter White Bunching. These can be sown direct on the vegetable plot and will also be ready for pulling and adding to salads in March /April next year.
  6. October is the ideal month for planting Rhubarb crowns. These can be purchased via our mail order gardening catalogue, online or from a garden centres. Also if you have some large clumps of Rhubarb, then they are best cleaned up now for the winter to prevent diseases. You need to remove any dead or dying foliage from the crowns (centre of the plants), as this will prevent them from rotting and lying on the crown. If plants are not cleaned up there is a risk of disease entering the old crown. Also if you tidy your Rhubarb plants, if you have any very large clumps you can split some up, dividing them into chunks as long as they have a bud on each piece. Once planted or cleaned up you can give them good mulch of well-rotted manure, which will protect the crowns through the winter as well as feed them in the spring.
  7. I find that Standard Roses need a little care and attention at this time of year before the windy winter weather gets here. Firstly, I check that stakes are firm and not rotten and replace any that are, and check that the stems are well secured with some tree ties, (but not too tight). I always like to trim the head (top growth) back by about a 1/3, removing any dead or diseased stems at the same time. By reducing the top growth now will hopefully reduce any wind rock later and prevent any damage to these plants. Final pruning of the rose bush can be done in March.
  8. This month is the ideal time to trim summer flowering Heathers. I like to use a pair of shears and carefully trim off any old and faded flowers. Be careful to not cut into any old wood as these areas will be bare and will often not re-shoot. Trimming heathers now will ensure your plants keep compact and bushy and will reward you with more flowers next year.
  9. If you have a large clump of Mint growing in the garden, why not lift a few roots and pot them up into shallow pots or trays. If these are moved indoors or in a glasshouse at a minimum temperature of 10C (50F) they will quickly start to shoot. Then by Christmas you will be able to enjoy some fresh mint, home made mint sauce with your various festive dishes.
  10. Autumn is well and truly here, making it an ideal time to cut and store Pumpkins and Winter squashes. These vegetables should be picked off once they have coloured up well, which is usually when the foliage has started to die back. Once harvested, allow to dry in the sun for a couple of days before storing them on a shelf in a cool shed or a garage. Winter squashes will store for up to six months and are very versatile in the kitchen and can be used in as many ways as the humble Potato. Pumpkins will be ready for making into a delicious pumpkin pie at Halloween towards the end of the month.

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