Jobs for the month: October 2011

Expert Gardening AdviceIf we’re lucky, the good weather that’s seen us through September will carry on for a few more weeks. Gardens are looking good at the moment, a little dishevelled, but still full of colour especially from fruiting shrubs and trees whose berries and fruits gleam in the autumn sunshine. If the weather does remain good, there’s lots to do in the garden now to lighten the load in early spring.




Lift any remaining main crop potatoes and either store in potato sacks in a cool, frost-free place, or use now. Dig the potato bed over carefully to remove any small tubers which could carry disease forward to next season. Digging the plot over now should ensure that it’s fairly weed-free in spring, and easier to deal with. If weeds do appear this month and next, they can be hoed off.

I’m trialling a new hoe that I saw at GLEE, the big horticultural trade fair at the NEC in September, and if it’s as good as it’s claimed to be, I’ll let you know and we’ll be offering it for sale.

Tender Veg:

If the weather stays mild, tender crops like tomatoes, courgettes and runner beans should continue to crop well. Pick them regularly to keep them cropping for as long as possible, but keep an eye on the weather forecast for warnings of frost, and harvest the whole crop before it can be damaged. Green tomatoes will quickly ripen if they’re placed on a warm windowsill.

Hardy Veg:

Cut down asparagus fern and weed the bed carefully avoiding damage to the roots. The tall stems of Jerusalemartichokes should be cut down now too, so that they don’t get blown over by winter winds. Jerusalem artichokes are an easy crop to grow, and I think they’re delicious, although they do seem to be a “love or hate vegetable” – they’re best sliced and fried in butter. They’re not often offered for sale because they don’t keep well once they’re dug up, so growing your own is the only option if you do like them.

Many gardeners like to sow beans and peas now for an early crop in spring. Unless you have a sheltered site, they can be susceptible to damage by harsh winter weather. I’ve also found that over-wintered broad beans tend to suffer badly from a fungal disease called Chocolate Spot and they don’t crop well. To my mind, the best bet is to sow in a cold greenhouse or frame in early February and plant out when they’re 10cm tall, which will give equally early crops without the uncertainty.

Harvest and store root crops like carrots and beetroot. Layered in boxes with sand or compost, they should keep well for several months.

Sow mixed salad leaves under cloches or tunnels for a late crop.

Take down pea and bean sticks once cropping has finished, then clean and store them ready for use next season.

Plant autumn onion sets and garlic.


Continue to harvest and store apples as they ripen. Look out for Apple Days this month in your area. They’re a great day out with lots of advice about growing fruit; most offer an apple identification service too.

Dispose of diseased or rotting fruit to limit the chance of infection to next years crop.

Prune blackcurrants and gooseberries if you’ve not already done so. See the How To No 4 – Summer Pruning for some extra tips

Order fruit trees and bushes now for planting from Nov. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, an apple tree is both beautiful and very productive, and worth a place in every garden. Use our Plant Filter Tool to help you choose.


Weed, feed, scarify and aerate lawns if you haven’t already done so, see last month’s Jobs for the month. If the weather stays warm, there’s still time to sow a new lawn. 

Cut lawns weekly and trim edges to keep them looking tidy. Bad weather can sometimes close in suddenly, and if you’ve neglected to cut for a week or two because growth has slowed down, your lawn will look shaggy and untidy all winter.

Rake up leaves using a lawn rake once there has been an appreciable leaf-fall. Store in black plastic bags with a few holes punched in them and leave them to rot down for a couple of years, or add to the compost heap.


Now is the best time to tackle troublesome perennial weeds like ground elder and bindweed in the flower border. A systemic weedkiller (one which is drawn down into the roots of the weeds) is at its most effective in autumn. See this months How To.

Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs.

Whilst the soil is still warm, split up and replant perennials which have grown into large clumps. Over time, the centre of the clump becomes deprived of nutrient and moisture and begins to flower less well. Dig the clump up, chop into smaller sections using a sharp spade, and replant 3 or 5 of the smaller pieces a few centimetres apart. Mix in a little Blood, Fish and Bone into the planting hole to help the roots establish quickly.

Shopping List


Sussex Trug

Pruners / Secateurs

Cloche Tunnels

Planting Line

Hand Trowel




Lawn Rake

Lawn Edging Shears

Surface Lawn Shears


Plant Food – Blood Fish & Bone

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