Garden notes for October 2020.
One of the great satisfactions of gardening is the ability to make your own plants from propagation. With autumn drawing on, make sure you get your cuttings sorted out earlier on in the month. Plants like fuchsias, geraniums and so on should be potted up and put somewhere safe before the frosts begin. Cuttings of alpines that have been done earlier should either be planted out where they are to grow, or potted on and kept in a frame until the spring. If you are keeping them in pots, it is best to plunge the pots to their rims in sand, ashes or soil. (Don’t forget to protect them from slug and snail predation!)
Lettuce seedlings can be planted in cold frames to give winter supplies. The frames should be ventilated freely when the weather is mild as they are prone to mildew attack.
It is always tempting to hang on to the summer flowering plants ‘for a few more days’, but if you want your spring flowers to bloom you really need to chuck out the old and put in the new. The reason for this is that spring bedding plants need to have time to get established before the winter weather sets in, otherwise they will not do as well.
If you are going to plant new fruit trees and shrubs, the best time is in November, but October is the time to prepare the site. The soil should be well dug and manured, this will be much more difficult in November.
Towards the end of the month strawberry beds should be tidied up. Remove all dead, diseased or damaged foliage, as well as the weeds.
The herbaceous border should be tidied up. Some people say that it should be left alone as the old stems protect the new growth, forgetting that they also harbour all the pests and diseases as well. I think it is better to cut back the top growth, and clean up the borders. It also allows the soil round the clumps to be lightly forked over. In addition the more vigorous plants can be lifted and divided to make room for other plants as well as helping others start their borders with the left overs.
When frost has browned the tops dahlias, cut them down to 9″ above the soil. Tie a label to identify the variety, then lift the tubers carefully and dry them off in a greenhouse for a few days before finally storing them in a cool frost proof place.
It is not often that I come across a garden tool that I had not heard of before. Recently I discovered the “Hori-Hori” which when translated from the Japanese means ‘dig-dig’. Essentially it is a steel blade with one sharp edge and the other with a shorter or serrated edge. It is fantastic for doing precision weeding, planting out, cutting back or just for killing slugs! There are a couple of suppliers (apart from Amazon, of course). I got mine from a company that has its UK base in Dorset and is called Niwaki. It is something to consider as an unusual Christmas or birthday present for a keen gardener.