Seasonal tips to help you make the most of your garden.
OCTOBER IN THE GARDEN
• October gardening advice from the RHS includes: moving tender plants, including aquatic ones, into a greenhouse or conservatory, collecting seed, splitting herbaceous perennials and netting ponds before leaves start to fall.
• Autumn is the best time to plant garlic as it needs to go through a cold spell to stratify ie split into individual cloves.
• Your brassicas might be well recovered by now from caterpillar munching and here is some good news about the effect on the plants.
• Pick raspberries regularly before they go mouldy and freeze them if you don’t get enough to eat in one day.
• Reminder to keep your potatoes dark so they don’t turn green before you want to eat them.
• Bare patches of soil left after veg crops have finished can be sown with ‘green manure’ crops to increase fertility of the soil.
• Still time to make comfrey and nettle liquid feed for your garden.
• If slugs are becoming a concern here are some ideas to combat them without using pellets which are toxic to all wildlife.
• If you want inspiration for the best plants for bees and pollinators see wildlifetrusts.org/actions/best-plants-bees-and-pollinators
Thanks to our green fingered contributors Head Gardener Bob Davison, Hungerford Allotment Plot 7 Marsh Lane blogger Belinda Robinson, Linda Forrester in Great Shefford and Hilary Reem in East Garston for the following tips:
Watering and Mulching
Continue to germinate peas, runner beans and borlotti beans, salads and herbs. But also think about perennial crops that are lower maintenance and don’t need digging each year which disturbs the soil structure and releases carbon dioxide stored in the soil.
To avoid gluts and shortages, here are tips for successional sowing to acheive a continuous harvest.
If your tomato and cucumber seedlings in a greenhouse or windowsill are getting leggy keep turning them or try putting white paper or something reflective behind them.
Direct sowing (straight into the ground) in May now that soil temperatures have risen. Those with cloches (low glass structures that are able to raise the temperature beneath), could sow carrots and salads crops earlier.
Grow Your Own Veg
• Latest inspirational blog from Belinda at Plot 7 Marsh Lane Hungerford Allotments
• listen here (from 4 min 30sec) to Penny’s tour of Hilly Reem’s inspiring 60 year old veg garden (including a 100 year old rhubarb plant!).
• how to plant garlic cloves so they stratify (separate into individual cloves) even if you are planting them in warm temperatures
• More tips for growing your own produce:
Borders, Flowers & Shrubs
• How to take softwood cuttings eg lavender, hydrangea
• It is easy to propogate your own geraniums
• Helibores are expensive to buy but will create their own seedlings if you cut back dead leaves to allow sunlight through to the soil around the plant where the seeds will land.
• Gardening for Bumblebees by David Goulson explains that long- and short-tongued bees feed from different types of flowers. And they are not the types that are bred these days for their colourful petals. The bees need to be able to reach the nectar and pollen, so short-tongued bees like pussy willow, comfrey, geranium, catmint, field scabius, marjoram viper’s bugloss and Devil’s bit scabious. Long-tonged bees like lungwort, comfrey, catmint, phacelia, viper’s bugloss and devil’s bit scabious.
Wildlife Friendly Gardening
Butterflies, bees and other polinators over-winter in dead leaves and hollow stems – so please resist the urge to tidy them away until temperatures constantly reach 10 degrees C or 50 degrees F and the insects are safely up and out.
Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital reminds everyone to be aware of hedgehogs in winter hibernation, under hedgerows, borders and untidy corners until the cold spell is over. If you accidently uncover a hedgehog in its winter nest, please call 07850 778752 for help and advice.
• If you find a bee swarm in your garden first please double check they are honeybees from this guide and then contact: Newbury Beekeepers, Marc Benson on 07746 374819 in Wash Common, Vale & Downland Beekeepers (for Wantage Area) or Swindon & District Beekeepers – any of these people will be very happy to collect the swarm from you.
Composting & Fertilizing
• It is worth growing comfrey to make a liquid fertilizer for your garden. Roughly chop up leaves in a bucket of water and nettle leaves too. Stir occasionally. When the water is dark green and smells like fertilizer then dilute it with more water and gives your crops a good drink. Here is a demonstration by Monty Don.
• reminder to men to pee on their compost heap! According to The Daily Telegraph this is an important chore and one that is physically easier for men and their pee happens to be slightly less acidic than women’s.
• Watering takes time and frankly, water is precious so here are tips on how to water your plants for best root growth. To prevent evaporation, we cover soil with gravel, mussel shells and big leaves like rhubarb.
• River-friendly rain garden design ideas to minimise the amount of watering you have to do – from ARK (Action for the River Kennet).
Gardening and Wellbeing
• How to garden without injury to keep fit – top tips from Andy at West Berkshire Injury Clinic.
• Sue Stuart-Smith explains in her book The Well Gardened Mind how gardening relieves stress and can transform our health, wellbeing and confidence.
• Early spring when the tree is still dormant is the best time to graft trees. When the tree wakes up, the sap will hopefully start flowing across the tissues of the graft. It is important to use a very sharp knife so the cut edges are smooth and clean and meld together (it is worth practicing the cuts on spare wood first.) For more information contact Growing Newbury Green. Here is a demonstration from one of the community orchards in Newbury.
Gardening Courses & Clubs
Gardening Courses with Sonia Wright near Marlborough. Something for every garden enthusiast at these one day workshops with award-winning gardener Sonia Wright. Gift vouchers available. To find out more, email [email protected] or call 07917 784602..
Newbury & District Gardeners meet fortnighly during the winter. Lecture series in Newbury open to the public.
If You Don’t Have Your Own Garden
When we can travel again, there are many allotments across the area which might have free plots. There are also community garden centres that are always grateful for volunteers and provide a social experience where you can learn a lot about gardening.
For inspiration on houseplants listen to Gardening Show with Linda & Jane on 4LEGS Radio: houseplants, terrariums and dragon plants (from 13 mins) – plus weeding, sowing crops under glass like chillis and sweet peas (from 27mins), early flowering plants and assessing the structure of your garden in the winter (from 30 mins).