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ACG Year October 2022: Pro Gallery
ACG Year October 2022: Text

For me, October is all about keeping going:  keeping the colour, keeping on cropping, keeping on weeding, keeping on planting.

After the frenzy of high summer - especially in this challenging drought year - it’s very tempting to just give up and watch another episode of Pointless.  But that would be a shame and those annual weeds will just keep growing behind your back anyway.

To be honest, my October flower garden can be more lovely than in August.  I’ve tried hard to have plenty of late perennials like aconites, Japanese anemones, asters (Michaelmas daisies to you and me), and sedums in bloom which the insects appreciate as much as the humans.  Autumn flowering bulbs like colchicum, nerines and plucky little cyclamens also put on a show, even in dry shade.  Assuming there’s been no frost, the dahlias are at their peak and have been known to keep going until December.

I managed to get a last planting of dwarf French beans in the ground in July so I’m hopeful that they will keep us fed through October along with chard, cavolo nero, lettuce, carrots, beetroot and raspberries from the veg beds plus tomatoes, aubergines and chillies from the greenhouse.  It doesn’t always work but I’ve learned that it’s worth giving things a go for the price of a packet of seed (50% off from Suttons for AGC members).  And if there’s been no frost, the courgettes will be still fruiting, though we are mightily sick of eating them by October.

So, half of me carries on pretending it’s still summer, but the other half has to face up to the fact that October means the start of autumn and all that that entails.


First of all, leaves.  If you’ve been in our garden, you’ll know that there are nine massive trees that used to line the road down to the old isolation hospital wards.  That’s a lorra, lorra dead leaves.  It’s fine to leave them on beds through winter but they must be raked off lawns and it’s an endless job here.  It does mean we create lots of lovely leaf mould to add to soil the following year.  To be honest, the leaf drop started back in July this year with the heat, drought and strong winds.   Three of those giant trees are horse chestnuts, so the squirrels are out in force in October burying conkers all over the garden which completes the devastation to the lawn that the badgers have already wrecked in their search for leatherjackets. 

There are still seeds to collect from annuals and perennials - or you could be lazy like me and let them stay up to self-seed with the alibi that the dead seed heads will also feed birds through the winter.  Don’t be too quick to cut down plants if they aren’t collapsing because they provide shelter for many valuable insects. 

October is an excellent time to get some plants fit for the following year.  Lifting and splitting perennials is an important way to re-energise them and, in the process, you will make some new plants to give away - or to donate to the AGC plant sale next year.  I also do some light pruning of climbing roses about now with a more radical prune early next year.  And October is a good time to plant new shrubs and trees or to move existing ones.  I spend a lot of the summer making notes of all the gaps that need to be filled, or things that might look better moved somewhere else but then I often make dodgy decisions and have to move them again the following year.  Some plants cope with the endless shuffle but others decidedly do not and sulk for many months or just give up entirely.  Bad plantmother!

But, amidst the slow descent towards winter, there’s plenty to look forward to.  It’s time to renew your pots for winter, with spring bulbs and winter hardy bedding like pansies, violas, primulas and wallflowers.  Don’t, however, plant out any tulips before the end of November to avoid fire blight.  I adore tulips and I persist in planting loads each year despite the squirrels watching from the sidelines to see what is going to be on the menu: this year they will be treated to some delicious chocolately Havran,  creamy La Belle Epoque and citrusy Antoinette.  October is also the time to plant out any foxgloves you grew from seed earlier in the year so they are in position to flower next year.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast in case frosts are predicted.  

The  pelargoniums that you take out of your beds and pots need to come inside by the end of the month along with any other tender plants.  It can be tricky to find space for them all especially if you have no greenhouse, but that’s what windowsills are for.  If we’re lucky we’ll be able to pretend we're still in summer for most of October, though ideally one with a bit more rain.

Tess Alps

Things to do in October


Gardeners' World

ACG Year October 2022: Text
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