Autumn is really underway now. Leaves are falling everywhere you look, and I’m a little obsessed with the pumpkins we’re about to harvest for Halloween. October isn’t all about harvesting and hunkering down for the colder months though; there are still some crops and plants you can grow. Here are some ideas for what to plant in October.
Flowers to plant in October
Autumn & winter bedding plants
Our gardens can start to look a bit bare and gappy this month, and bedding plants are brilliant for an instant lift. You don’t have to tackle the whole garden; go for areas that you can see from indoors, or plant up containers and position them somewhere that you walk past regularly, like the front door.
Pansies, violas, cyclamen, ivy and heather are all great plants for an autumn display. Garden centres, DIY stores and supermarkets usually have a good range on offer.
Wildflowers are fantastic for wildlife; they provide food for pollinating insects, wild birds and bats, as well as dense shelter for other small animals. They’re fast-growing, low-maintenance, help to control weeds, and look fabulous too – what’s not to love?!
You can sow wildflowers in a patch of ground, or a container. March and April are the typical time to sow wildflower seeds, but you can also do it in autumn if your soil isn’t heavy. My post on planting wildflowers shows you how to do this.
When it comes to climbing plants, I think clematis are hard to beat. You can plant them in spring or early-to-mid autumn, when the soil is warm and damp enough to help roots become established. Clematis are quite hungry plants, so dig a deep hole and mix in lots of manure or compost before planting. It’s a good idea to think about plant supports at this point too, before it’s too late!
Hardy annuals for next year
Sweet peas can be sown from October to March, but sowing them now gives you a better chance of strong healthy plants come spring. Once seeds have germinated and the seedlings have established themselves, you can put them in a sheltered spot for the winter. A cold frame or an unheated greenhouse are ideal.
Fruit and vegetables to plant in October
Some varieties of asparagus can be planted in autumn; planting now helps them to get established more quickly. There are lots of varieties available, including Ariane, Mondeo and Pacific 2000. You have to be patient – you can’t harvest any asparagus for two years – but it’s such a treat it’s worth the effort.
Winter-hardy spring onions
Winter-hardy varieties of spring onion such as *Performer and *White Lisbon can be sown this month for harvesting next spring. Sow them thinly in rows about 10cm apart and 1cm deep. Once the seedlings appear, thin them out to allow 2-3cm between plants.
Growing garlic doesn’t take up much space, it’s not very fussy, and there are lots of different varieties available for you to experiment with. Garlic is easy to plant, my post on how to grow garlic shows you how to do it.
I’ve never sown broad bean seeds in autumn before, but having read about the benefits of doing so I’m definitely giving it a try this year. Sow them outdoors now and they’ll be ready to harvest about a month earlier than if you sow them in spring. The main benefit in my view though is that autumn-sown broad beans apparently don’t end up with blackfly infestations – every year I have a problem with blackfly on this crop, maybe next year will be different!
It’s a bit late to grow salad from seed now, but if you can get hold of plug plants, there’s still time to get them established before the weather gets colder. Grow your plants in a sunny, sheltered spot which doesn’t get waterlogged, and space them out at 10cm intervals. Good varieties to try are lamb’s lettuce (also known as corn salad), wild rocket, land cress and mizuna.
After a winter of root vegetables, being able to harvest something green and leafy in early spring is a real treat. If you want to grow spring cabbages from seed, choose a sunny spot and make sure you walk over the soil to compact it a bit before sowing, as cabbages like a firm anchor for their roots. You can buy small plants from most garden centres at this time of year. Good varieties to try are *Durham Early, Duncan and Greensleeves.
Bare root apple trees
If you’d like to add an apple tree to your garden or allotment you can either buy a tree in a container, or go for a bare-rooted tree which is supplied without soil. Late autumn and early winter is the best time to plant bare-root trees, as this is when they are in a dormant state. There are so many varieties of apple tree, a visit to your local garden centre or a search online will give you lots of varieties to suit the conditions in your garden.
Rhubarb crowns should be planted in autumn or spring. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil, and plant with the crown just poking out above the soil. A rhubarb plant should serve you well for up to ten years, so it’s a good investment!
Blueberries are quite easy plants to grow, but they do need acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 or lower. The easiest way to make sure you provide this is to grow them in a container and use ericaceous compost. The plants will thrive best in full sun or light shade. Aim to water them using rainwater; tap water will gradually make the soil less acidic.
Bulbs to plant in October
Spring flowering bulbs
Spend a bit of time this month planting *spring flowering bulbs and you’ll make such a difference to the amount of interest in your garden at the end of winter. Daffodils, crocus and hyacinths should all be planted by the end of September; hang on a bit longer to plant tulips though. If you’re not sure how to do it, check out my post on how to plant bulbs.
It’s also worth potting up a bulb lasagne, which is a container layered with bulbs that flower at different times. This is a brilliant way to get a long display of flowers for minimal effort!
Forced spring bulbs
While you’re planting your spring bulbs in the garden, you can also ‘force’ some of them to flower earlier than they would normally from this month. Forcing bulbs is basically speeding up the natural process of growth and flowering, and it’s a lovely way to enjoy blooms indoors in winter. Amaryllis is probably the most well-known bulb that we force indoors, but you can do it with lots of other bulbs too. Check out my post on forcing spring flowering bulbs for full instructions.
What are you up to in the garden this month – are you planting anything from my suggestions for what to plant in October? Let me know in the comments. You might like to check out my post on garden jobs for October too.