October is a good time to get your grounds or gardens sorted before the winter weather really hits. Although October will probably see the first frosts here in the south of England, temperatures can reach 16°C or more if you’re lucky enough to have a bright, sunny day.
The first job to think about when caring for trees and larger shrubs is to check that they are physically sound for the winter, as much as they can be. If they have ties or stakes, check they are still secure and replace them if required.
Check for any branches that didn’t produce leaves or where the leaves have died more quickly than the rest of the plant. This is probably a sign that the branch has died so you may want to consider removing it before it becomes a hazard. See if you can see why it might have died; it may be due to a pest, disease or fungus that could go on to affect the rest of the plant so some timely action could be required to prevent further damage. (The RHS website offers some great advice on what pests and diseases might be to blame.)
If you have deciduous hedges, now is a good time to give them one final tidy up before the winter. Evergreen hedges are not likely to grow much more either, with the weather getting cooler, so you can neaten them up if they need it too.
October is an ideal time for moving or planting new trees, hedges, shrubs and climbing plants – as long as the soil hasn’t become waterlogged and strong winds are not imminent! Look out for our next article about bare root plants to read more about this.
If you want to take hardwood cuttings of hedges or shrubs, October is a good time to do that.
Think about what you want to do with your fallen leaves. When fallen on open soil, dead leaves create a natural mulch that will help keep weeds down, retain moisture (if that’s relevant!) and create micro-environments for friendly garden insects and animals, so you might want to consider leaving them there. However, when fallen on paths or lawns, dead leaves can become a sludgy mess, that not only blocks light to your lawn and harbours nasty bugs, but which can be a slip hazard.
Think about adding unwanted leaves to your compost heap or create a leaf pile that will eventually break down to become leaf mould, a rich source of nutrients to dig back into your soil. (The BBC Gardeners World webpages have some advice on this).
Finally, think about being a friend to the wildlife in your area. If you haven’t already done so, clean out birdboxes, feeders and water troughs. Hedgehogs need a final good meal before they settle down to hibernate: the British Hedgehog Preservation Society has useful advice on what and when to feed.
And, of course, if you’ve built a bonfire, don’t forget to check it for sleeping creatures before you light it!