‘Twas The Eve Of All Hallows…

8th October 2010

Tips for October Gardening from National Garden Gift Vouchers

October heralds the start of autumn and therefore the start of the big garden tidy up. It also sees the end of the sowing season, although you should still be able to harvest root vegetables planted earlier in the year – carrots, swedes, the first parsnips and the first celeriac, plus pumpkins and turnips – both of which have a role to play in this month’s big event… Hallowe’en.

Hallowe’en was originally a pagan holiday honouring the dead and can be traced back to the Druids. It’s held on 31 October, the last day of the year in the Celtic calendar and was also referred to as All Hallows Eve – the evening before All Saints Day, which was created by the Church to convert pagans. In traditional Celtic Hallowe’en festivals large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces and then placed in windows to ward off evil spirits. The use of pumpkins for Hallowe’en carving comes from North America where pumpkins are readily available and much larger, making them easier to sculpt.

Aside from Hallowe’en preparations, October is also a particularly good time of year for planting larger plants, trees, shrubs and conifers. In fact conifers come in a vast range of colours and many change shade during the year. Careful selection can give a great splash of colour in Autumn and Winter when most other plants are dormant. Be wary, though: size is determined by variety and not by size at the planting stage. Most plants that you buy in your local nursery or garden center will have a ten-year height guide as part of their description. Study it well! Growth rates also vary: some grow quickly straight away and need to be kept in check; others are very slow for a time and then grow rapidly; some others barely grown more than 2cm a year.

The colour, structure and style of conifers make them suitable for all types of garden – they need remarkably little attention and will provide an all-year-round display. They are also pretty disease-resistant, virtually maintenance-free, need just a little loving during really cold spells and will perform for years to come. The Easy Guide to Growing Conifers – produced by the Horticultural Trades Association together with the RHS – is essential reading for anyone planning conifer planting. Visit your local garden centre to pick up a copy.

This month is also the last chance you will have before winter to plant up shrubs and you should also think about moving any existing shrubs that were in a hot position to a cooler part of the garden if they have suffered during the summer. Beech hedges can now be clipped, but for evergreen types you will need to wait until spring.

If you are already dreaming of a display of colour for next spring then now is also the time to plant your bulbs. Tulips are always a seasonal favourite. They require a sunny spot and do very well in both containers and borders.

Before planting anything into your borders give them a bit of tender loving care. Many flowering plants can be cut back down virtually to ground level and you should pick through the border with a fork taking out any weeds. A good hoeing will help to aerate the soil, and a general tidy up with a little bit of cosmetic pruning just to dead head is also a good idea.

You should also prune back rambling and climbing roses at this time of year. A good pair of secateurs is vital – they don’t have to be costly but they need to be sturdy and strong, and fit into the palm of your hand. You can treat yourself to a new pair by using some of your National Garden Gift Vouchers when visiting your local garden centre or nursery.

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