The atmosphere about the garden now is that of clearing up after the party – the guests have made heir bow and graced the scene, they have been fed and watered and now they are leaving, and only the debris remains to be sorted and cleared away or used. The perennials will mostly have finished flowering and need cutting down, with the stakes and supports put away in a dry shed until next year. Now and next month are times to move and divide, and to act upon notes made during the season as to where plants should really be growing, and which ones will never do and can he thrown out. The large clumps can be split, and the best pieces from the outside replanted, the centre being thrown away.
Edges of beds and borders can be straightened and re-cut, and the last remnants of the annuals and bedding plants lifted and put on the compost heap. Dahlias should be cut down after they have been blackened by the first frost, the tubers dug up and shaken free of soil, then labelled and stored in a dry cool place through the winter. In mild winters, they will live in the soil without lifting, to shoot again without difficulty next spring. Tuberous rooted begonias and gladioli should also be lifted early in the month and cleaned, then stored in a dry, frostproof place.
This is the month for bulb planting, leaving it to the end, however, if the weather remains warm. Narcissi, hyacinths, scillas, snowdrops, crocus, grape hyacinths and chionodoxas (glory of the snow) can all g0 in. Leaves will need sweeping up everywhere, particularly from the lawn. Rambler rose pruning can continue. Tender shrubs, conifers and other evergreens, and hydrangeas can be planted this month, and propagation of most shrubs, including roses, by hardwood or fully ripened cuttings, can be started, as soon as the shoots are mature, putting them in a trench out of doors.
October is a suitable time to prepare the sites where shrubs are to be planted next month. This preparation is very important, and does a great deal towards ensuring that the new shrub will survive and thrive; so often it dies through being planted in badly drained soil that is starved of plant food, or short of humus, as well as being in all probability totally different to that in which it was growing in the nursery. The hole should be dug out two spade’s depth deep and at least 4 ft. wide, the bottom forked up and well-rotted organic matter mixed with it. The excavated soil is then returned, making sure that the topsoil remains on top, and mixing with it all, more compost, manure and leafmould. A proportion of half and half is about right. Doing all this a month ahead gives the soil time to absorb the new material and settle after digging.
From now until late February, lawns can be made by laying turf, provided the soil is not too wet nor too cold. The spring bedding plants should be planted as soon as possible where they are to flower, for instance wallflowers, forget-me-nots, polyanthus and double daisies, perhaps leaving room among them for tulip planting in November.
By now most of the top fruit will be picked and in store, if not already eaten, and now is a good time to decide on possible new varieties to obtain a succession, and to grub up old, poorly fruiting trees, or those with fruit of poor flavour. Apples and pears can both be grown on dwarfing stocks, to produce small trees about 12-15 ft. tall and as much across. They can also be grown in restricted forms as cordons, pyramids, or espaliers. There are no dwarf stocks for cherries; plums and greengages do not grow very tall or large in any case, though they can be fan trained against walls. Peaches do well as fans on sunnyi walls.
Fruit, like vegetables, is in a different class if eaten as soon as picked, rather than 24 or 48 hours later, as it so often is if shop bought. The production of one’s own fruit also ensures that one knows exactly what was applied in the way of spray chemicals to ward off various pests and diseases. Choice of top fruit should be carefully made, as it will last twenty-five years on average; strawberry beds are replanted every three or four years, raspberries, gooseberries and currants every 10-15 years.
The ground can be prepared for the new fruit trees this month, as it is for shrubs. Strawberry runners can be planted, and the rooted tips of blackberries and loganberries can be separated from the parents, preparatory to planting next month. They should also have the old fruited canes taken away and the new put in their place This is a very prickly job, and gloves are essential, unless a variety such as ‘Oregon Thornless’ is grown. Peaches can be given a Bordeaux mixture or lime-sulphur spray just as the leaves start to fall, as the final protective covering against peach leaf curl.
Apples for picking, eating and storing this month are ‘Bramley’s Seedling’, ‘Charles Ross’, ‘Blenheim Orange’, Tgremont Russet’, and Taxton’s Superb’; Bramley’s in particular can be kept without difficulty in a cool shed in boxes with lids on, provided they are not infected with rot or any kind of fungus in the first place, and will keep so until March and April of the following year. Similarly pears will keep for a good part of the winter, in particular such varieties as ‘Louise Bonne of Jersey’, `Packham’s Triumph’, ‘Pitmaston Duchess’, ‘Doyenne du Cornice’ and ‘Josephine de Malines’.
By this time the greenhouse will be filling up again, as plants come in early in the month for protection. These may include freesias, both from seed and corms-the former in flower by now – azaleas, cyclamen, Christmas cactus, poinsettias, orange and lemon trees, young plants of primula and cineraria, saintpaulias and the winter cherry, Solanum capsicastrum, and chrysanthemums for flowering in late November and December. Some good varieties for late flowering are ‘Christmas Wine’, and ‘Christmas Red’, ‘Red Balcombe Perfection’ and ‘Yellow Balcombe Perfection’ and the incurve `Maylen White’. A little heat may be needed at the end of the month in the greenhouse if there is frost at night.
Carrots, potatoes, beetroot and celeriac can be lifted; good sized roots of the latter will be about 6 in. in diameter. The first of the parsnips may be ready, and the last of the marrows should be cut. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and leeks will be coming into season, also winter celery towards the end of the month; there may still be a few lettuces. Aubergines and peppers will come to the end of bearing. Cauliflowers should have the outer leaves bent over the curd to protect it.
Asparagus fern should be cut down to soil level, and the bed mulched with rotted manure or garden compost – if this is not available a light dressing of basic slag can be given. Asparagus does best in a limey soil, and if it is acid a dressing of lime in some form should be given every three or four years. Globe artichoke crowns should be protected with a heavy mulch after removing dead leaves.
Otherwise much of the work in the vegetable garden consists in clearing and cleaning of weeds, digging and rotavating, and manuring this month and next where brassicas, leaf vegetables and potatoes are to be planted next spring. Vegetable or animal manure should not be used where root crops are to follow, but for them wood ash can be forked in. Do not add lime at the same time as bulky organic material. Spring cabbage plants should be planted outside.