Now’s the time to start preparing your garden for next year (yes, already!) While the garden winds down, it’s a good time to step back and plan changes, whether creating new beds, adding new plants, or changing the layout. It’s also the best time to look at making your garden more wildlife-friendly. Birds, bees and insects are at their most vulnerable in the cold months ahead. And while you might not be spending much time in your garden any more, they still will! So plan with their needs in mind as well. Here are some October garden jobs to tackle – tips marked will make you a wildlife star!
Empty beds Dig them over; remove weeds, stones and roots, and leave the soil in large chunks to break down over winter.
Raised beds Once plants are finished, clear and weed; then mulch with an inch or two of garden compost.
Leaves Rake up leaves to make leaf mould (free multi-purpose wonder ingredient you can use as soil improver, mulch and for potting). If you have the space, put leaves in bin bags with a few little holes for air, or a chicken wire/netting container, and come back to them next year when they’ve rotted down. Pile up leaves in unused corners and beds to encourage bugs and worms (and thus birds).
Patio containers Put on bricks or pot feet so they aren’t sitting in water during the winter.
Pots and baskets Clear out and chuck contents in the compost.
Hedges Give them their last trim of the year
Keep deadheading to max out the blooms.
Cut down finished perennials and ornamental grasses – don’t forget that some look nice in winter. Leave seedheads over winter for birds.
Dig up and divide bigger clumps of perennials.
Check stakes and supports will protect trees from strong winds.
Move small trees now if needed.
Lavender Trim if it’s really an eyesore, but some birds eat the seeds so leave if you can.
Roses Cut taller roses down by a third to prevent wind damage and prune climbers.
Buddleia, dogwood and bigger bushes Trim the height down if they are likely to get blown about in strong winds.
Check stakes and supports to protect shrubs from strong wind.
Move any shrubs you want to relocate.
Rhubarb Dig up established crowns and chop in two to create new plants.
Fruit Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts. Unripe pears will ripen indoors. Leave some windfall fruit for birds and insects.
Beans Sow early broad beans outside.
Garlic Plant garlic cloves in a sunny place a couple of inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Chives Divide bigger clumps.
Blackberries and autumn raspberries Cut finished stems down to the ground
Clear leaves regularly, rake out moss and thatch, and aerate if the ground is compacted (use a fork or an aerating tool). Feed with autumn lawn feed, and pour boiling water over weeds (no need for weedkiller!)
Do a final mow for the year if needed, but leave grass long rather than short over winter.
Lay new turf or sow seed now, otherwise leave it until spring.
Now is a good time to plant…
Spring-flowering bulbs Snowdrops, crocus, bluebells, cyclamen, and grape hyacinths (muscari) brighten up your garden at the start of the year as well feeding bees emerging from hiberation.
Spring bedding plants Wallflowers, primulas, native primrose, pulmonaria and hellebore are all good for hungry bees in early spring.
Perennials and biennials There are loads of wildlife-friendly choices for all types of garden and location – the choice is yours. Include more plants that provide nectar or pollen, rather than sterile ornamentals.
New trees and shrubs before the soil gets too cold. Look for species that offer flowers, berries or fruit that support birds and insects.
Bare root plants (shrubs, trees, roses, and perennials) – cheaper and tougher than potted plants!