October in the Garden
Date Posted:6 October 2019
In Australia's climate, most gardens look their best over the next two months - what happens after that reflects the degree of planning and ongoing effort from we gardeners.
The ascendance of the perennial border is a highlight of the gardening year.
- With all those succulent shoots emerging molluscs of all kinds can do a damage if not dealt with early. A pellet in time saves nine ( shoots that is)
- Staking becomes an important task over the next month or so, having a good supply of strong new canes and stakes at the ready will save precious growth from wind damage.
- As the soil starts to warm topping up of old mulches can commence. Weeds have a way of finding a chink in our armour .
- In some gardens emerging Hostas are martyrs to snails, a few pellets sprinkled around now will save disfigurement for the whole of summer.
- Making notes for additions and adjustments to borders is an ongoing task. We all think we will remember where that congested clump of bulbs is come summer, only to realize three months hence that our memory is playing tricks on us. We now place a label under a small thumb pot which is secured with one of those wire staples used for irrigation so we know where and what it is that we are going to move or divide. Tiles or river washed stones are other possibilities anything that is not too obtrusive but sufficiently noticeable will do.
- Dividing clumps of Galanthus while in the green is an enjoyable job this month. Snowdrops resent their bulbs drying out so dividing them now is a much more reliable tack for success.
The art of pruning shrubs is simply one of respecting their natural shapes and encouraging the plant to replace flowering branches.
As spring flowering shrubs go over in quick succession be at the ready with the pruning saw to remove old flowered branches. This will open up the centre of the bush in readiness for young vigorous replacement shoots.
- After evergreen Azaleas have flowered is a good time to tackle any problems with, lace bug spider mite and petal blight. The disfigurement to foliage and flowers is not reversible but by reducing the plants crown and therefore its foliage mass with pruning a new start can be had. Drench the remaining skeleton with Confidor and a fungicide over the ground. Mulch, feed and keep moist for the next month or so whilst the foliage replenishes. Other victims of Spider Mite and Lace Bug are Viburnum tinus and Chaenomeles speciosa. In dry climates these will harbor these bugs over the winter - a preventative drenching with nicotine spray will help control their spread.
- Shrubby penstemon are often looking worse for wear after the winter. Wait until young growth at the base of the plant is well advanced then remove all of the old stems to reveal the new.
- The new growth of Clematis needs constant tying in this month to avoid a mad nest of intertwined stems, a long trail of flowering stem is a much more attractive prospect.
- To avoid sacrificing too much growth try tip pruning young plants on a regular basis.
- Young hedges can be liberally mulched this month to maintain the benefits of spring soil moisture.
- The rapid growth of lawns for the next month or so means that with mowing there is a lot of goodness being removed - , slow-release or liquid feed lawns towards the end of the month as compensation.
- Scalping the lawn is never a good idea - it only leads to weeds encroaching.
- Little but often is always the best approach with mono-cultures
Making new colour combinations with tender annuals is one of the fun parts of creating a summer garden. If it doesn't work - there's always next year.
- Apart from the many trays of seed sown for the nursery , October is the month when we sow seed for our late summer annual display. Varieties of Zinnia, Cosmos , Tagete and Tithonia are sown a few seeds to a pot in trays. Duplicate seedlings are snipped away leaving the strongest to grow on. We find this much easier than struggling with seasonal vagaries if sown directly. As long as the young plants are not checked in any way they get off to a fine start when planted out in mid-November.
- Umbels of all kinds though much prefer a direct sowing and as much of their charm depends on massing this is most easily achieved by scattering the seed where they are to flower. It is easy enough to keep a few patches of this kind weed free.
- Birds of all kinds are at their busiest so any seed sown directly needs a protective mound of twigs to deter grazing and scratching
- Don't be too hasty to plant out tender annuals of any kind. Low night temperatures only hold them back and late-frosts can bring disaster. Keep young plants going with warmth, liquid feed and regular watering in a protected spot.
Summer pots add that extra bit of glamour around the house and can be used to feature many plants that need that extra bit of cosseting.
- All sorts of interesting bulbs and rhizomes that can be a bit awkward in the garden can be enjoyed in pots. One of our favourites is Ismene festalis ,the Lily of the Incas and in milder areas pots of Eucharis lilies are a glorious summer addition to a warm terrace. ( sadly not for us, although we have tried many times)
- American seed companies are producing ground covering Zinnia varieties which should prove useful for summer colour in pots, our trials of them this season will be interesting.
- To avoid skewering lilies in pots we place a small stake next to the bulbs when potting them up, we then replace this with larger stakes a required up until flowering.
- Old pots of Fuchsia will be ripe for a prune and re-pot - completely bare the roots and pot into potting mix amended with extra peat or compost to make sure they don't dry out in summer.
- Pots of scented Geranium that have been over-wintered can be re-potted into fresh soil this month ready for another season of delicious scent.
- Pots of Hippeastrum will be starting into growth , dose with a liquid feed and keep well-watered and protected from snails and slugs.
If the ' weed-mat cheat' hasn't been used, then this month means the hoe needs to be kept busy.
- Lilies will be thrusting their fat stems through the soil now - if not already treated so, a course mulch will deter snails and slugs from doing their worst.
- It is important to maintain moisture in soils around senescing bulbs a handful of slow release fertilizer now helps them build big bulbs for flowering next season.
- In mild areas , Ranunculi and Anemone are well into their season. - deep watering and regular picking drastically extends their display time.
- Constant picking of Iceland Poppies and Sweet Peas this month will keep them going well into the next.
- It is time to bring Dahlia tubers into a warm place to get young shoots developing on the tubers - place on top of crate filled with moist saw-dust and cover with a plastic sheet. Pot up tubers with new shoots emerging to get a head-start for summer.
- Ordering seed of tender annuals if not already complete is one of this month's pleasures.
- Over wintered plants of Salvia, Geranium should be stood out in a sheltered spot to harden up.
- Gladioli will need to go in the ground this month unless a late crop is required in which case hold them ,completely dry, in the crisper of the refrigerator until approximately eight to ten weeks before the flowers are required .
Have the following at the ready for summer jobs
- Potting mix
- Lime, Iron-sulphate, Potassium-sulphate,
- Blood and Bone
- Sphagnum moss
- Snail bait
- Stakes and twigs of all sizes
- Twisties , string and Jolly Roger soft tie.
- Netting for climbers, ( Sweetpeas , Ipomaea, Cobaea, )
- Tenax netting as support in the cutting garden
- Bamboo canes in various sizes
- Copper-sulphate to deal with mossy lawns
- Slow release fertilizer, tree planting tablets
For most of us summer is all about irrigation and any neglect of its infrastructure becomes obvious only too quickly when the weather hots up.
- Clean filters and remove nozzles . Flush lines whilst they are removed .
- Have plenty of 'goof plugs' and connectors at the ready - an errant garden fork can turn into a flood.
- A Japanese sharpening block is a handy thing to have on hand to keep the Felcos keenly sharp.
- As the weather warms so compost bins become more active - a fair bit of break-down of autumn and winters additions will have taken place so jump on top and trample it down a bit to speed things up. A bit of lime added now will keep things sweet.
- I always think separation of bins according to the season sensible - we have started our spring-summer one which we will empty over the course of next winter.
- Keeping a balance of fine and coarse ingredients is still important at every time of year - make sure plenty of air gets into the heap.