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10 gardening tips for October

Magazine
There is always something going on in the garden! You can find out what you should look for in the autumn month of October.

GARDENA tips for your garden

Covering vegetables: If you want to carry on harvesting leafy vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, endives and lamb's lettuce even in ice and snow, cover them with protective vegetable fleece before the first frost. You can also use the same simple method to cover leeks, allowing you to harvest them for longer.

Harvesting potatoes: The foliage of your potato plants has died away, so now it's time to dig up the tubers and store them away for winter. The easiest way to do this is using a garden fork, but make sure you avoid damaging as many as possible to the extent that they cannot be used. The best way to do this is to grub up the potatoes and spread them out to dry. Then, pack them in mesh sacks and store them somewhere cool and dry. One option would be to store them in potato racks. Tip: It's worth taking the time to pick out the mini potatoes that are just three or four centimetres in size. Wash them, prepare them in the same way as unpeeled potatoes then, after peeling, fry them whole in butter or lard until crispy. You could also add bacon and onions. This dish is definitely worth the effort and is a special autumnal treat.

Layering up compost: Compost heaps are full to overflowing in October, but paying them a bit of attention before you fill them up will help the compost to rot better. Ideally, you should chop up large pieces of plant debris as well as foliage. The art of improving composting is all down to the layers: Alternate a layer of wet waste around ten centimetres thick (such as fruit peelings, kitchen waste and lawn cuttings) with an equivalent layer of dry waste (such as shredded shrub prunings, chopped thin twigs and shredded foliage) and repeat. Dry layers that are too thick take too long to rot down, while wet layers that are too thick will decay and then stink.

Cutting back herbs: Leave the herbaceous members of the perennial kitchen herbs—such as mints, French sorrel or pepperweed—to die back as much as possible, then cut the wilted foliage back to about two finger widths above the soil. Plants that seed readily, such as lemon balm, can be cut back before they set seed.

Preparing container plants for winter: All container plants that are not resistant or only slightly resistant to frost should be moved into their winter quarters in good time. You have to use your instincts here, as the golden rule for overwintering container plants is to move them indoors as late as possible, and back outdoors as early as possible.

Sweeping up leaves: Although collecting leaves can be a nuisance, they are also a valuable raw material. They can be layered for composting in containers specially designed for the purpose — containers that can also serve as a place for hedgehogs to overwinter if you put the leaves on top of a small pile of branches.

Harvesting fruit: Apples, pears, quinces, the last raspberries of autumn, late varieties of plum, kiwi fruit and kaki fruit should now be harvested. With medlars, you should wait until the fruit becomes doughy and leave sloes until the first frosts have come. Important: After the harvest, remove all damaged fruit that is left on the tree; e.g. what we call mummified fruit. You should also gather in fallen fruit, sort it to see if it can be used, and then dispose of any that can't.

Dismantling trellis: Annual climbing plants on their trellis—such as cup-and-saucer vine, Chilean glory-flower, morning glory, sweet peas, runner beans, purple bell vines or black-eyed Susan—should now be removed. Clean the trellis and the wall behind it, cut the clippings into pieces that are about the width of your hand and then compost them. The same applies to the hops on their supports, which have now gone over.

Fertilising your lawn: To make sure your lawn survives the winter in better condition and is able to get a good start on growing again in the spring, give it a final dose of special autumn lawn fertiliser at the start of October, following the manufacturer's instructions for use. Make sure you use an autumn lawn fertiliser, as this is the only one that has nitrogen formulations that the lawn can handle over the winter. A complete fertiliser, such as the ones used in the summer, is not suitable at this time.

Preparing winter-hardy fuchsias: Protect frost-sensitive shrubs and semi-shrubs (such as hardy fuchsias) with a layer of leaves around 30 centimetres thick to see them through the winter. Stop this layer from blowing away by enclosing it with a ring of chicken wire that is around the same height. Simply place it over the plant you want to protect and its root zone and anchor it firmly to the ground against the wind.