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Your Garden In October

2nd of October 2003

We have had a magnificent summer but its time now to get busy in the garden again. Lawns will soon green up once they have had some rain but its important to rake and scarify them and they should be aerated too, using a garden fork or a specially designed aerator. Feeding the grass with an autumn lawn fertilizer is essential so that the winter does no further harm to the lawn. Once the ground is moist enough, but before it gets saturated with the effects of the autumn rain, the vegetable garden should be dug and the borders turned over. Main crop potatoes, if not already dug, should be lifted and stored, and tender perennials such as large-flowered fuchsias, dahlias and pelargoniums should be lifted and put inside safe from the frost. Dahlia tubers should be dusted with sulphur powder to prevent rot. Cuttings of geraniums can be taken soon and in the vegetable garden the early onion sets can be planted.

Now is the time to start planting the winter-flowering bedding plants such as pansies, polyanthus and primroses. Tubs, containers and hanging baskets can be planted with bedding plants, trailing ivies, small conifers, grasses and the half-hardy cyclamen. The grey-leaved cineraria maritima helps set off bedding schemes too. Spring-flowering bedding plants such as wallflowers, sweet williams, forget-me-nots and Canterbury bells can also be planted now. October is a good month to plant bulbs in the garden. There are many varieties of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocus and a host of less usual bulbs in the garden centre at the moment. When planting bulbs in the garden, the soil can be improved by mixing in a multi-purpose compost. Bulb fibre is a special compost used when growing bulbs in bowls for the house. Hyacinths can be used both indoors and in the garden; if prepared bulbs are used, flowering can be speeded up so that they can produce a display inside around Christmas time.
It is a good time now to cut back those border perennials which have started to die back but the penstemons are best left untouched until next spring. Some of the perennials should still be in flower now – asters (Michaelmas daisies), rudbeckias, solidago (golden rod) and Nerine Bowdenii. There will be a host of shrubs and trees with fruits and berries at this time – cotoneaster, pyracantha, callicarpa, malus (crab apple) and the specie roses with their ‘hips. October is the month for autumn colour. Just look at the acers, amelanchier, cotinus, rhus, parthenocissus (virginia creeper), liquidambar and the spectacular euonymus elatus with its vivid crimson autumn foliage. Quite breathtaking! Terry Simmonds

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