Your garden in October
Taking care of the soil
As far as gardeners are concerned we are looking for soil that will provide our plants with a firm anchorage, nutrition, sufficient water and good drainage.
Good soil is a living thing, teaming with microorganisms, from bacteria to fungi, these are good bacteria.
Plants need three main nutrients, nitrogen, which encourages leaf and shoot growth, phosphates which promote root development and potash which is necessary for flower and fruit development. They are designated as N, P and K in fertiliser which show the ratio in which they are present. Aside from these plants need trace elements such as magnesium, calcium, iron, boron and zinc, these can be applied as ‘general’ fertiliser and well rotted organic matter.
Soil acidity, measured on the pH scale, will also affect plant growth. Acid soil has a pH below 7.0, alkaline soils, containing chalk and limestone, have a pH of 7.5 or above. It is important to know which type of soil you have as plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, pieris and camellias need an acid soil.
Heavy rains, and constant cultivation will over time deplete the soil of nutrients, that is why it is important to feed the soil regularly, applying a general fertiliser each spring. Organic fertilisers such as blood, fish and bone must be broken down into an absorbable form by soil bacteria and as such have the advantage of feeding the vital bacteria as much as the plants.
Well rotted organic matter in the form of manure, garden compost or leaf mould will bind together sandy soils as well as helping to open up clay soils. Organic matter rots down over time and so needs to be regularly applied by either digging in or applying as a mulch to beds and borders.
So good drainage, essential nutrients and plenty of organic matter Are the ingredients that will make all the difference when it comes to growing strong healthy plants.
Jobs to do in October
Planting garlic in the autumn will usually give a better crop than spring planting. A sunny site with free draining soil is best. Split up the bulbs into individual cloves and plant 10cm deep in light soil and 3cm deep in heavy soil with the cloves 25cm apart
Carry on dead heading late flowering perennials especially dahlias which will continue flowering well into the autumn.
Tidy up borders by removing foliage that is rotting or flopping over such as hostas, acanthus and day lilies but leave stems of tender plants such as salvia and any with strong upright seed heads.
Plant amaryllis bulbs
Pot up amaryllis bulbs now to flower within about 8 weeks. Select the largest amaryllis bulb for multiple flowers, then chose a pot that is just a couple of centimetres wider than the bulb. Half fill the pot with loam based compost, then position the bulb so the top half is exposed. Fill around with more compost, then water it well. Keep in a heated greenhouse or indoors on a windowsill.
Clean up the greenhouse
Remove all debris and spent plants from the greenhouse. Wash the glazing inside and outside and clean up the floor. Wash any pots and scrub the benches. Check plants regularly for signs of or disease damage by pests.