Monthly Gardening Tips - October 2021


Compost. I prefer to dig my rottted compost out in September, spreading it quite a few centimeters deep all over the surface of borders. This helps suppress late weeds, adds humus to the soil, and certainly offers root protection to the roots of less hardy plants during winter. Don’t pile it up round the stems of shrubs or totally over the top of herbaceous plants though. Any unrotted material can be put to one side and form the base of the next year's heap.

Within a month or so much of your compost will have weathered down, and by spring-time you can fork the soil surface over to aerate.

I wouldn’t advocate home-produced compost for baskets, pots or window boxes simply because you’re likely to introduce worms too.

Depending on the size of your plot you can make compost in ready-made bins, in ‘boxes’ with slatted timber sides; in wire ‘cages’ made of chicken wire and support posts. You may also collect leaves in bags, wet them, and alllow them to rot over the months. All of these work well. My advice would be to not cover the top at all - let the weather help the rotting process. I never turn composting material, but water it occasionally during dry spells. I avoid composting old food, peelings, eggshells etc. as they attract rats and mice, and can get rather smelly!

Having dug your compost out get busy collecting leaves, grass cuttings, cut-up prunings etc. to start the cycle over again. It really doesn’t take more than a year for most things to rot down.

Planting for winter/spring colour. As hanging baskets, window boxes and containers fade, October is best for resoiling and planting up. I suggest winter-flowering violas, primulas/polyanthus, forget-me-nots, daisies (Bellis) and small evergreens may be used as ‘dot’ plants - heathers, cineraria, Lavender, grasses, Skimmia and ivies for starters. Water them well after planting. Good luck.

Below are a few photos and suggested seasonal tips.

decorative citrusMany decorative Citrus in posts are virtually hardy but dislike waterlogging. Offer some shelter during very cold spells.
cosmosAnnual Cosmos. Save seed.
black-eyed susanAnnual climbing Black-eyed Susan.
Lobelia cardinalis
Lobelia cardinalis
The brillant red-flowering aquatic Lobelia cardinalis will also benefit from hard frost protection.

After pink and white Japanese Anemones, below, have flowered they may often produce cottony seed heads, after which cut flower stems to the ground. Split clumps up during winter to propagate.

Japanese Anemones
Japanese Anemones

Here is a photo of rose hips which reminded me to flag up that birds feast on these during winter time. Not everything needs to be pruned back in the autumn!

rose hips

Geranium. Take cuttings of new growth from your favourites, like my pink one below, about 120 cms. long, remove 90% of the leaves, and sink 6-8 round the insides of a terracotta pot, halfway into sandy compost, water them, and overwinter on a light windowsill.