October has arrived and although leaves are showing signs of autumn colour the daytime weather remains warm and sunny.
With the prolonged warmth flowers are still blooming in the garden, and constant dead-heading means that butterflies, bees and other pollinators are continuing to enjoy their nectar. Whilst I hope that this weather will continue well into November, chilly mornings warn that hard frosts are not far away and that soon it will be time to awaken the wood burner from his slumber.
Sunny days means that there’s still plenty of time to get out in the garden, here are the top 8 gardening jobs I’ll be doing here at Le Jardin Perdu this October;
1. Prune climbing roses. We have a lovely climbing rose trained against our house in the front garden. It has been here much longer than we have; it is gnarly, has little bottom growth and most of its flowers bloom well above head height. It’s time to give the poor thing a complete overhaul. I have already removed dead and woody stems, and my plan is to now cut back 3-4 of the remaining, newer stems to about 30cm from the base. The rest of the stems I will leave taller but will cut back any side shoots on these by two-thirds. By doing this I’m hoping to encourage new shoots come springtime which will fill out the lower area of the rose. If you have any climbing or rambling roses, these can also be pruned now, but not quite so drastically!
2. Start a wildflower patch. I want to create a large wildflower patch making use of the off cuts from my plantable wildflower seed paper cards. I have chosen a couple of areas between our garden and field that I’d like to fill with wildflowers. As these areas are currently covered in grass and perennial weeds, my plan is to turn over the soil, remove the grass and weeds as best I can and then cover the areas with some old rubble sacks we have in the barn. Over the coming months I will keep returning to these areas to weed and dig them over. By early spring, I should have weed free patches where I can plant the seed paper. Wildflower seeds can be sown either in early spring or autumn time. If your area is already prepared, you can sow wildflower seeds now!
3. Harvest squashes and pumpkins. This year I have grown climbing squash ‘Red Kuri’ and butternut squash, both of which need to be harvested before the first frosts arrive. When harvesting squash, leave about 25mm of stem attached. Once cut from the plant, leave the fruit to either cure outdoors for a week (cover if frost is forecast at night) or in a greenhouse/cold frame. Squash and pumpkins can then be stored in a well-ventilated area, ideally at a temperature of 10-15c. Depending on the variety, squash and pumpkins will store for up to six months.
4. Plant autumn garlic. I prefer to plant autumn garlic rather and spring varieties, simply because it makes use of space in my vegetable patch at a time when I have little else growing. Autumn garlic needs periods of cold weather to aid its development, so I ensure that mine is planted before the end of October, in readiness to make the most of the cold November and December ground. Planted in Autumn, garlic will be ready to harvest in May. Right now the garden centres in France are lined with different varieties of garlic, if you’d like to learn more about French varieties of garlic, or how garlic should be planted, you can read my earlier blog here.
5. Prune Hellebore. I love Hellebore and they are certainly one of the first plants to flower in my garden come the New Year, braving the frost and snow in February to put on their beautiful display. To make room for new growth and to ensure you can fully appreciate their delicate flowers, cut off any large, old leaves now. Always make sure that any leaves showing signs of black spotting are removed immediately
6. Plant spring bedding plants in pots and hanging baskets. My summer displays are almost at an end, and for once I’m determined to create early spring displays in pots and hanging baskets. There are lots of flowers you can use, but I have chosen a mixture of Erysimum, Cyclamen hederifolium, winter flowering pansies and Primula along with two low growing shrubs, Skimmia japonica and Sarcococca confusa. Planting these now will enable them to become established before the harsh weather arrives. Use fresh compost which will provide the plants with all the nutrients they require during the winter months, and take care not to over-water them in cold weather; no one enjoys frozen feet! If particularly cold weather is forecast, wrap the pots in garden fleece or some other form of insulating material to help protect the plant roots.
7. Buy garden fleeces. We have already experienced a few light, morning frosts, and whilst it’s too early to cover any delicate plants just yet, it always pays to be prepared!
8. Harvest borlotti beans. Every year I grow borlotti beans, not only are they great to use in stews, but with their speckled, scarlet pods they add a splash of bold colour to the vegetable garden. Rather than eating them whilst they are young, I always leave mine to dry on the vine and by October they are ready to harvest. Borlotti are ready to harvest when the pods have fully dried and turned a straw colour. Once shelled, scatter the beans on a baking tray and leave them to continue drying for a few days. Once they are completely dry they can be stored in glass jars until you are ready to use them in delicious stews over the winter months.
Remember to keep collecting seeds and start to keep an eye on the weather forecast; frosts are coming! I’d love to know what your plans for your garden are this October, please do leave your comments in the box below