In the vegetable garden, October is the time to finish your harvest for many plants. It is also a good month to clear your vegetable plot ahead of winter, taking care of any crops that you plan to leave in throughout winter.
Sowing & Planting
There are a small number of crops that can be sown now and left to overwinter.
Sow over-wintered broad beans, garlic, autumn-planting onions / shallots – including spring onion, spinach, winter lettuces (try oriental mustard leaves, or ‘Winter Gem’), winter-hardy peas.
If you are not planting any crops in autumn, consider sowing ‘green manure’. Plants such as field beans, mustard or a seed mix will add nutrients to your soil for next spring, provide habitat for beneficial insects to overwinter and help keep down the weeds. You should really plan to finish sowing these by mid-October.
Hillier tip: Be conscious of planned crop rotation when choosing your plants for green manure. For example, mustard should be avoided in areas where brassicas have been grown as they are related crops and it has the potential to pass on the fungal infection club root.
Simply plant and leave in during the winter. In early spring, dig them into the ground and leave to decompose for a few weeks before starting your spring planting.
Planting Fruit Trees
October is a good month for planting any container-grown fruit trees, from apples and pears to plums. Bare root fruit plants can also be planted in October – November.
Read our guide to autumn fruit trees for advice on selecting the right rootstock, varieties and planting advice.
The glut of the past couple of months will be gradually petering out in October, but there is still plenty to be harvesting this month.
You may have ready to harvest: beetroot, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chilli peppers, cucumber, kale, leeks, lettuce, parsnips, pumpkin, radishes, rocket, spinach, squash, swede
October is Halloween month; the perfect time to pick and carve your pumpkin! The flesh can be used to make a delicious soup, or more traditional pumpkin pie if you have a sweet tooth.
If you have a glut of produce and are looking for ways to avoid waste, browse our recipe collection, full of delicious ideas from our Hillier Development Chef.
Other Grow Your Own Activities
Autumn Clear Up
If you didn’t begin it in September, you may want to carry out your autumn clear-up in the vegetable patch in October. Weed and dig up any finished crops. If you have been growing potatoes, it is worth forking over the top level of soil again a few days after clearing – there may well be a few more hidden potatoes to unearth!
If you are not planting any more crops, you may want to sow ‘green manure’ (see sowing section above).
Watch Your Brussels
If you are growing Brussels sprouts, remove any yellow leaves you spot to avoid getting grey mould on the plants. You may also want to make sure they’re really firmly in the ground, as the roots can be damaged by wind rock – supporting on a cane as they grow is another way of preventing damage.
Prune & Mulch Fruit
October is a good month to mulch around any fruit trees or bushes. You can use compost or bark chippings for this.
Hillier tip: Apply mulch after a rainy day to lock in moisture.
This is also the month to prune blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. In October summer-fruiting raspberry varieties and blackberries should be cut back and tied in.
Call Time on Tomatoes
Any tomato plants growing outdoors can now be dug up. If you still have un-ripened green tomatoes and a greenhouse, you could hang the plants upside down to encourage the last ones to ripen.
Hillier tip: Some other possible ways to encourage the last green tomatoes to ripen include removing any leaves shading the fruit, or, cut back on watering to slightly stress the plant. You could also try picking them and putting them in a bag with some bananas – bananas produce the hormone ethylene that stimulates fruit ripening.
As your crops finish, be sure to clear them onto the compost heap, removing any debris and washing out old pots. This will minimise the presence of possible pests and diseases.
Give the greenhouse a good clean with detergent. With colder days on the way, plan your greenhouse insulation; either via bubble wrap or a greenhouse heater.
Your October Grow Your Own Toolkit
For sowing overwintering crops:
- Seeds, garden spade, compost or other organic matter, watering can
- Gardening gloves, trug or basket for produce, small sturdy stepladder (for fruit)
For your autumn clear up:
- Spade, fork, gardening gloves, trug for carrying debris, compost bin / heap