Your gardening calendar: Top tasks for October!
Our monthly calendar guides focus on what we do: Wildflowers, edible crops and wildlife. Here, we'll take you step-by-step through the most important sowing, growing and nature-friendly tasks for October.
Sowing and growing wildflowers
1. Sow these wildflower seeds to bloom in the spring
Certain types of wildflower seeds can still be sown during October. These include cornfield annuals mix, field poppies and cornflowers.
Wildflowers sown during autumn will flower the following spring, bringing gorgeous early colour to your garden, as well as a great source of nectar for bees and other pollinating insects. Here’s our in-depth guide to sowing your wildflower seed mix.
2. Plant bluebell and snowdrop bulbs
October is also a great time to plant spring-flowering wildflower bulbs. Both bluebells (the native kind) and snowdrops will provide some of the earliest nectar for pollinators as winter becomes spring.
This useful guide from the Wildlife Trusts will help you tell the difference between native and Spanish bluebells.
3. Plant wild garlic bulbs
Wild garlic (also known as ramsons) is another wildflower you can plant as bulbs during October. The flowers look like beautiful little white stars - and its edible leaves and roots do indeed smell and taste of garlic!
Hoverflies, butterflies and longhorn beetles will all appreciate the blooms. Try planting 20-30 bulbs, in groups of five, in a shady spot. You can find out more about wild garlic in this Woodland Trust guide.
4. Seed-save for next year
If you still have summer wildflowers in your garden, October is the perfect month to try gathering their seeds, for sowing again next year.
Cornflowers and poppies are both relatively easy to gather seed from. Here’s a good guide to saving poppy, cornflower and calendula seeds.
Sowing and growing fruit, vegetables and herbs
1. Dig now to beat the frosts
It may seem rather early, but October is actually a very good time to prepare your fruit and veg patch for spring planting. If you wait until winter, you’ll risk getting caught by the frosts. And chiselling through frozen ground is no fun at ALL.
So, take some time during October to give your whole patch a good dig over to loosen and aerate the soil. It will make things much easier when spring does come.
2. Sow kitchen herbs for winter harvesting
Lots of people don’t have a garden, allotment or greenhouse. Fortunately, many herbs don’t need any of these. Basil, dill, chives, parsley, coriander, marjoram and mint are all herbs that can be grown on a sunny kitchen windowsill all year round.
October is the perfect month to sow these herbs from seed, for harvesting throughout the winter.
3. Plant early garlic and onion sets
Autumn-planting garlic and onion sets can be put in the ground during October, to be harvested May to July the following year.
This Gardeners’ World guide should tell you everything you need to know about garlic growing.
Top tips to help wildlife
1. Resist the urge to tidy up
During October, probably the best way to help wildlife is to leave a wee mess! For example:
DON’T cut down all your old plant stems. The seedheads of plants like teasel and thistle make valuable food for goldfinches and other birds, and wee insect beasties will find warmth and shelter inside dry, hollow stems.
DON’T clear away all your fallen leaves. Piles of dry autumn leaves make perfect snoozing spots for hedgehogs, while damp, rotting leaf mulch provides a great foraging ground for blackbirds and thrushes.
DON’T gather all your autumn fruit. Birds, squirrels, voles, and dormice will all appreciate your leftover apples, pears, plums and brambles.
2. Let your ivy flower
Ivy isn’t always popular (particularly when it’s winkling into the walls of your house). But this common plant can actually be a lifesaver for pollinating insects.
That’s because it flowers during October - much later than most other garden plants - and provides a vital autumn source of nectar when there’s not much food around.
Ivy also offers vital evergreen shelter for birds, butterflies, mice and bats, during the coldest winter days. If you’re determined to cut yours back, please wait until the spring!
3. Give your bird bath… a bath
Many people will have been filling and refilling their bird bath a lot over the warm summer months. October is a great time to give it a good clean, to ensure no spread of disease between the different birds that use it.
We use Milton, a steriliser that is safe for babies, pets and wildlife. Alternatively, try a cleaner like Anigene, specifically formulated for use by vets. Either way, it’s still important to rinse your bird bath out thoroughly and ensure no residue is left.
4. Don’t junk your pumpkin (or squash your squash…)
Finally - are you carving a pumpkin or squash this All Hallows’ Eve? If so, make sure you don’t throw it in the bin afterwards.
Squirrels, foxes, badgers and birds all appreciate a pumpkin snack, so pop it out in the garden instead and let them enjoy it.
Just make sure you raise it off the ground, so hedgehogs can't reach it - they tend to eat too much of it, which can upset their stomachs.