Richard's top tips for October

  • Week 1

    Get even with your lawn. Sort out those dips and hollows. Sprinkle in half an inch of John Innes compost and let the grass grow through. Add more compost at regular intervals through the autumn and winter until the lawn is level.

    Sweeter peas. For extra early sweet pea flowers next year, sow the seeds now. Pop them in a cool spot outside and keep them well watered. The seedlings will need some protection from the worst of the winter, so keep them somewhere sheltered, like a cold frame.

    Winter wrap. Prepare for the cold weather. Insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap and turn off outdoor taps at the stop cock or protect them with some lagging. Drain hosepipes and put them in the shed.

    Geranium cuttings. Overwinter young rooted cuttings in a light, cool but frost free spot. Keep them fairly dry as they’ll rot if they are over watered. Take off any leaves that turn yellow.



  • Week 2

    Stop the rock. Tall growing butterfly bush (buddleia) and mallow (lavatera) should be cut back by half to prevent them from being damaged by wind rock in winter.

    Get fruity. Pick any remaining apples and pears before the weather turns. Eat any windfalls or damaged fruit – don’t try to store these as they’ll rot. Any surplus autumn ripening raspberries can be frozen.

    Save begonias. Tuber forming begonias, like Non-Stop varieties and trailing Apricot Shades, can be saved to grow again next year. Cut the plants back to 3in and let them dry out for a couple of weeks. Knock off the remaining stem and dig the tubers out of the compost. Dust with sulphur powder and store in a cool, dry, frost free place over winter.

    Mow lawns. The grass is still growing, although slowly, and will need a light trim from time to time. Raise the cutting height to 1.5in so you don’t cut too much off. Brush off any wormcasts before mowing or they’ll get squashed and form muddy patches.


  • Week 3

    Dig it. As crops are cleared from the veg plot, boost the soil (and next year’s crops) by digging in garden compost or well rotted manure.

    Chop chop. To save dahlias for next year, cut them down to 3in as soon as the leaves turn black from the first frosts. Dig up the tubers with a fork, brush off the soil and prop them upside down for two weeks for water to drain from the stems. Dust with sulphur and store in a dry, frost free place over winter.

    What a shower. Give yukkas and other non-flowering houseplants a treat. Pop them in the shower and rinse the leaves clean with tepid water. This will help them cope with lower light levels in winter.

    Cut backs. Prune buddleia, shrubby mallow (lavatera) and tall rose bushes by a third to lessen the chance of wind damage over winter.


  • Week 4

    Save your bags. Don’t chuck away grow-bags once the tomatoes have finished. Whip out the old plants, sprinkle in 3oz of Growmore fertiliser and re-plant them with pansies for a splash of extra colour next spring.

    Christmas scentsations. Plant fragrant Paperwhite narcissi in pots to flower for Christmas. Grow them in a cool room indoors. If they’re too warm, they can get tall and floppy.

    Get planting. It’s the best time of year for planting trees, roses, hedges, shrubs and most fruit. The plants will settle in over winter and get off to a great start next season.

    Lovelier lilies. For earlier flowers next summer, plant lily bulbs soon. Put 5 bulbs per 12in pots and use a gritty compost, or plant them in clumps in sunny parts of the garden.