Peter’s Gardening tips for Early October

What an extraordinary Autumn. I hope you have made the most of the dry warm weather. Now for something completely different!  Make way for leaves and lots of them!

“When great leaves fall the winter is at hand”
“For every fog in October, a snow in winter”

“Evening red and morning grey are sure signs of a fine day!”

A good month for tidying up, but leave some leaves under the hedges for hedgehogs, frogs, toads, newts and to compost down feeding your hedge naturally. If you have a leaf blower just blow them under the hedges or shrub beds. Blackbirds love tossing them around in winter looking for worms and bugs. Leaves are nature’s larder for a lot of wildlife.

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves


Time to recycle your homemade compost. Only use compost that has broken down to “Black Gold”,there should be virtually no smell, it should be crumbly and free of twigs. Put any non broken down material into the base of your empty compost bin. Ideally have 3 bins which are rotated and turned.

The best recipe is grass,green matter 50% mixed with 50% carbon based materials such as leaves, chipped up hedge clippings,shrub prunings, cardboard,newspaper,straw. Any woody stems needs to go through a shredder or else burn or take to the tip.

Mix as well as you can. Water if dry, cover with black plastic sheeting,weed control membrane or even old carpet. This will heat up and in essence cook. Turn and mix every 3-4months to get air into your compost. Soak if dry, cover up again.6-9 months you should have wonderful homemade compost. It can take longer than this. Good luck.

Herbaceous Plants:

Some can be cut to the ground, hostas, day lilies,geraniums, phlox, any plants that won’t give you winter structure and interest . Leave some old flower stems for winter interest. Frost, dew and cobwebs look utterly amazing first thing in the morning.  Grasses come into their own now. Take pictures of the garden now before it all dies down, plan next year.

Autumn bedding plants:


Time to strip out the summer bedding plants, recycle to  your compost bin. Replant with heucheras, pansies,violas, primroses, polyanthus, winter flowering heathers -Erica carnea and darlyensis great for bees,-spring bulbs and Wallflowers – one of the best scented spring plants in a wide range of colours, only available this month. Check the compost in pots for vine weevil grubs -feed to your robin! Treat with Nemasys vine weevil control, or replace the compost with fresh. Raise plant pots off the ground use tiles or pot feet. Poke a screwdriver through the drainage hole if blocked by roots. If this gets blocked frost will break the pots open.

Ideal planting time for trees and shrubs. Ground is now moist,warm- the best conditions for any plants to settle in, put out roots to then grow beautifully next spring. Autumn is nature’s time for planting.

Add more scent to your garden! Roses,Daphne,  dwarf narcissus Sailboat… herbs,Skimmia,Philadelphus, honeysuckle…….Fill your senses!

What are your favourite smelling plants? Let me know….

More October jobs:

  • Use a rotary mower to hoover up the leaves, this chops them up thereby speeding up composting.
  • Raise the deck of your mower. Not good now to cut the grass short.
  • Aerate your lawn, last month the ground was too dry. Hire a machine for large lawns, use a fork for small areas.
  • Treat lawns with an Autumn Lawn Feed and mosskiller.
  • Sow grass seed for a new lawn or patching up. Look at last month’s article for more info.
  • Check all ties on trees,shrubs and climbers. Slacken off if too tight, replace or add extra to support. Cut off excessive growth if acting like a sail.
  • Anticipate the gales, secure and fasten fences,trellis with plants attached.
  • Check gutters, downpipes, drains and gullies. Clear out debris.
  • Look at the roofs of sheds for signs of damage to the roofing felt.
  • Continue to harvest Apples and Pears.
  • Examine stored fruit and vegetables. Remove any diseased or damaged pieces.
  • Bring in tender plants- Orchids,house plants ,citrus. Lift dahlias, cannas and any pelargoniums or summer bedding plants before severe frosts.
  • Remove shading on greenhouses. Max light now.
  • Insulate your greenhouse and clean.
  • Apply fruit tree grease around the trunk of fruit trees to prevent winter moth.
  • Garlic and autumn onion sets need planting this month available at all garden centres.


Garden pond

Garden pond

Cut back and pull out excessive weed. Leave on the side of the pond to allow any baby newts and water insects to crawl back in. This weed makes very good compost. Net ponds to keep the worst of the leaves out. Leave a shallow area uncovered to allow birds to drink and bathe. Float a piece of polystyrene or a plastic ball to stop your pond completely freezing over.

Enjoy the Autumn colours over the coming weeks. Get out and check out National Garden Scheme gardens, National Trust and RHS gardens open across the country. Blow the cobwebs away. Pick up some ideas and plan for next season. What a Fantastic growing season and fabulous summer.

Happy Gardening!

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Peter Mills

I love everything to do with natural history, wildlife, biodiversity and of course horticulture - basically the big outdoors. I grew up with very good teachers namely my parents and my French grandfather who was a superb grower of vegetables. At Hadlow College I studied a three year OND in Horticulture. I had a market stall selling plants. Went onto wholesaling house plants to florists and garden centres across southern England. In 1986 I joined Clandon Park Garden Centre as manager. Whilst there I started my career as a gardening radio presenter with the BBC Southern Counties Radio. This continued for 15 years, building up valuable contacts with the RHS Wisley, live broadcasts from Chelsea & Hampton Court Flower shows, South of England & Surrey County shows etc. Since 1998 I have been self-employed, working as a Head Gardener and in private gardens . Through the RHS Advisory Department at Wisley I advise on horticultural problems in members gardens, including pest & disease problems, lawn-care advice, pruning of wisterias, fruit trees, roses, wildlife gardening, growing fruit & vegetables, creating wildflower meadows, identifying plants and control of pernicious weeds. I am an extremely lucky guy who loves what I do and the trade called Horticulture!

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