Planting and moving
October is an ideal time for moving and planting trees, shrubs and climbers, as well as for hedge planting.
Bare-root - Deciduous trees and shrubs, as well as root-wrapped evergreens, become available towards the end of the month, so you could think ahead and prepare the ground for them now. They are cheaper than containerised plants, and are the perfect choice whenever large numbers are needed - perhaps for a new hedge, woodland or a rose bed.
Containers - You can still order containerised trees and shrubs, and large semi-mature specimens, for planting over the winter.
Take hardwood cuttings of plants such as Rosa, Cotinus, Salix and Forsythia.
Check softwood and semi-ripe cuttings taken earlier in the season. They may need potting on, or selective removal of individual plants that have succumbed to rot (in order to prevent cross-infection).
Berries, fruits and seeds can be gathered from trees and shrubs, once ripe, for immediate sowing. Colutea (bladder senna), Laburnum, Morus (mulberry) and Sorbus (rowan) are all suitable examples.
If the weather is dry, keep watering early-flowering shrubs such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, so that flower buds are initiated successfully for blooms next spring. Use recycled or stored rainwater wherever possible.
Check tree ties and stakes before winter gales cause damage.
Place healthy fallen leaves on the compost heap or into separate pens for rotting down into leafmould. Shredding leaves first with a shredder or mower will help them break down quicker.
Pest and disease watch
Garden hygiene helps prevent pests and disease being carried over from one year to the next. Rake up and destroy - do not compost - any affected leaves. Diseases such as black spot on roses, leaf blight on quince, and scab on apples and pears can all be partially controlled in this way.
Honey fungus toadstools begin to appear in late September and early October, indicating possible areas of infection. However, there are also many harmless, saprophytic fungi appearing at this time of year, living purely on dead material and pose no threat to garden plants. If the plants look healthy, then there is unlikely to be cause for concern.
Watch out for fungal diseases such as grey mould (Botrytis) or powdery mildew. Although less common on shrubs than on herbaceous plants, they may still cause problems when the weather is conducive.
Cultural controls are more effective than sprays at this time of year. Pruning to increase ventilation, and prompt removal of affected leaves, flowers or fruits is crucial. When pruning, take the opportunity to examine branches for signs of disease. Small cankers, die-back, and rotten, hollow stumps at the centre of old shrub bases, are best removed early on, before they spread.