What to do in October

Spring has arrived with some quite extreme weather. The flowers on our flowering cherry tree only managed to last a week with the strong winds that have been battering  New Zealand. It may be a good idea to check on those newly planted trees, making sure the trees are still secured.


It’s important to stake new trees to stabilize the tree and give it a chance to grow some anchoring roots. You want the tree tie to hold firm when tying to the tree but give a little sway. Movement makes the tree trunk stronger, the tree sends chemicals throughout the tree reacting to the movement and thickens the cells. If your tree is tied too tight this will not happen and the tree will become brittle, possibly breaking later on in life to a strong wind. After one or two years depending on the site and the tree you should be able to remove your stakes.

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Magnolias are looking magnificent this month. If you are thinking about adding a magnolia to your garden then make sure you have the right spot. Magnolias like a sheltered spot out of early morning sun in sun or part shade. Magnolias like a rich acidic loamy soil so when planting your magnolia add lots of well rotted compost and manure, leaf mould is perfect. If you don’t have this to hand then grab a bag of compost and some dynamic lifter. Dig a big hole at least twice as big as the magnolia then fill it with compost adding dynamic lifter to the surface.

Snakes head fritillary

Snakes head fritillary

Bulbs will still be in flower but lot’s will be dying back now. Don’t be tempted to cut them back to tidy the garden. Bulbs continue to take up food and photo-synthesize when they have finished flowering. This is the most important time for bulbs as they take all the food they are collecting and store it into the bulb. This is why now is the best time to feed your bulbs, however if you have good enough soil or leaf mulch then you won’t have to at all. I have never fed my bulbs. Let your bulb leaves dye down and when they are floppy yellow and brown then you can cut them off and compost the remains. You can also lift and dry the bulbs once the leaves have browned, planting them again in autumn.

Asparagus can safely be planted now. We have 1yr old asparagus crowns in stock ready to be planted. Asparagus need their own bed as they are a long lived hungry crop. They require a sunny well drained position. Prepare your bed by digging in lots of well rotted manure and blood and bone and add lots of sand or grit if you have a problem with drainage. Soils that are more acidic than 6.5 will need liming.


To plant, dig a trench 30cm (12in) wide and 20cm (8in) deep. Work in well-rotted manure to the bottom of the trench and cover the base with a 5cm (2in) layer of the excavated soil.Make a 10cm-high (4in) ridge of soil down the centre of the trench. Place the crowns on top of this ridge, spacing them 30-45cm (12-18in) apart within the row. Spread the roots evenly and replace the rest of the soil, leaving the bud tips just visible. Leave 45cm (18in) between rows and stagger the plants between adjacent rows. Water in and mulch with 5cm (2in) of well-rotted manure or other weed-free organic matter.

Lots of vegetables can be direct sown from seed now. We have lots of vegetables available in seedlings for a head start but veggies such as carrots, radishes are best sown from seed. Prepare beds for direct sowing by replenishing soil with blood and bone and organic matter. Rake the top layer even, you can even sieve the top layer if your soil is stony. Then its a matter of sowing according to the instructions of the packet, then covering with a light layer of soil and water in.

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Melons, pumpkins, courgettes/zucchinis and other curcubits can be sown indoors this month. So too can climbing beans. All of which need lots of heat which when they receive grow at the rate of knots. When planting out give younger plants some protection with a cloche until they have established. They’ll appreciate the extra protection and warmer night time temperatures.

On the subject of night time temperatures, the nights are still very cold. September has struggled to get above 5 degrees at night, it looks like it won’t be until November until night temperatures are comfortable enough for heat loving plants. Cloches are great for this, you can remove them in the day and replace them late afternoon to conserve some heat. In addition the temperatures have been slightly erratic, typical for spring, but not great for brassicas and other quick to seed plants. When brassicas get a great increase in heat and/or dry out it, will quickly go to seed and forgo that lovely broccoli head your after. To avoid this plant somewhere away from intense heat. Or even shade with a bit of shade cloth and keep the water up, watering around the plant will keep temperatures down.

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Lawns will be growing steadily now and a few cuts will be under the belt. Now is a great time to fill those patches in the lawn with new seed. Remove any dead thatch by giving the whole lawn a good rake if you haven’t already. You may want to aerate and top dress too especially if your patches have been made by dips in the lawn. Evenly distribute seed onto the patches and rake in to mix with the soil. If your soil is hard and poor mix a little compost in and fluff the surface then tamp down before sowing. After you have distributed the seed tamper down evenly with a roller or your feet. Then give a good water twice or three times a day depending where you are, using a sprinkler gives a good soak with out having to stand there. You can even use a timer so you don’t even have to turn the water on. Don’t apply feed with seed as the young roots won’t need it, you can feed a new lawn after six months at a reduced rate.

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Digital StillCamera

October will continue to lift spirits after a winter that will not be forgotten in a hurry. It will also be a busy time in the garden, time waits for no man or woman. Time spent in the garden in spring will be doubly well spent by the time summer rolls around which is not that far away. So get your Christmas spuds in while you still can, rocket has the shortest harvest time with 60 days you still might get a crop.

Lets enjoy the well deserved sunshine and not get blown away by spring (quite literally).

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