Gardens Illustrated
October in the garden
© Alice Pattullo

Eight October gardening jobs

Aaron Bertelsen explains a few key jobs you can do in the garden right now. Illustration Alice Pattullo

Gardening jobs for October


Tidy up

While it’s still mild enough to enjoy being outside, take the opportunity to do a bit of tidying up. Remove yellowing or damaged leaves from brassicas, which will reduce the risk of fungal disease and deprive slugs and snails of a home. You should also take out and compost any crops that have gone over so the soil is ready for winter digging or mulching.


Lift your potatoes

Any potatoes that are still in the ground should be lifted and allowed to dry out before being stored. Choose a time when the forecast is good for a couple of days and leave them spread out on hessian on the open ground. You will know when they are ready when the soil falls off easily, leaving them clean. Pack them away in paper bags or hessian sacks and check after a week or so to make sure none are rotting.


Sow winter salad crops… quickly

If the weather is warm there is still time – just – to sow winter salad crops in pots, provided you do it right at the start of the month and can offer a reasonably sheltered spot. Let the weeds be your guide – if they’re still growing, seeds should still germinate. Cover with fleece at night to help them along.


Plant strawberries

I love the smaller, more fragrant wild or alpine strawberries and find them great around the base of larger pots or places where other things struggle to grow.


Pot up your chicory

If you are planning to force chicory (you’ll need a Witloof type for this), dig up plants and pot them up. Cut off the tops and pack the plants into a large pot with a light soil/sand mix. Cover, and put the pot somewhere dark, cool and dry.


Protect your herbs

If you have pots of herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, move them closer to a wall or the house to give a little extra shelter. I put stakes in the pots so that if the weather is harsh I can easily pop a little hessian or fleece tent over them.


Get mulching

Mulching around plants such as rhubarb and soft fruit will help to feed them as well as providing winter protection. I add a 10cm layer of leaf mould, or compost from the heap.


Check your stakes

Check that stakes for fruit trees are still strong. Replace them if necessary and in any case replace the twine. This will ensure trees are well supported before winter winds hit.

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Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.


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