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Green fingers: October garden tips

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Richard Key has over 30 years in the landscape industry and is a Fellow of the Society of Garden Designers. He’s created medal-winning gardens at both Chelsea and Hampton Court Shows and is author of several books including ‘Family Garden’. He also happens to live locally which is handy for us on Muddy Stilettos! Here are his expert tips on how to tame your garden this month. 


Bulb Planting

This is the month when you can start bulb planting to give those golden swathes of daffodils which herald the beginning of Spring. If you can plant in bold natural clumps rather than in rows like soldiers, then the result will be far more rewarding and I also think that daffodils always look more effective when growing in the longer grass of orchards or woodland dells rather than in shrub beds or amongst ornamental planting. Scatter the bulbs on the grass and plant them where they fall. You can buy bulb planters which are a bit like spades but with a hollow cone on the end which digs out a core of soil to the right depth. Place the bulb in the hole and replace the soil core, then tread down to firm the ground over the bulb.


Feed the lawn
Applying an Autumn lawn feed will help keep the grass roots strong throughout the Winter so that the lawn will be ready to grow away vigorously next year. You can buy Autumn lawn fertiliser from garden centres where you can also pick up a handy fertiliser spreader too. The spreader will be set to broadcast the fertiliser at the correct rate per sq metre which is a lot simpler and more accurate than you trying to do this by hand. Once you’ve tipped the fertiliser into the spreader, then just walk up and down the lawn as you do when cutting the grass, making sure that you overlap each pass to ensure that no strips of lawn are missed.


Veg growing!

In your veggie garden, this is a good time to plant out onion sets (immature onions ) – a far easier process than trying to grow from seed. Onions will grow best on well-drained soil that you can improve by adding compost or well-rotted manure. An additional fertiliser like growmore will also be beneficial. You need to plant the sets at about 2cm deep and 100cm apart with the rows at 20cm spacings. Simple as that!

And while we’re on the subject of growing, what about having a stab at garlic? It’s easy to do and a bit different. Just break the garlic bulbs out into individual cloves and plant them just below the surface, 15cm apart with about 30cm between the rows. Always buy your  garlic bulbs from a garden centre or online from a nursery. Don’t be tempted to pick up a few bulbs from the supermarket for planting as they’ll probably not be suitable for our climate.


Lay your turf


October is one of the best months for laying new lawns, as there is usually enough rain to ensure that you don’t have to carry out laborious watering. Prepare the soil with a rotovator or by digging ( if only a small area ) and then rake out to a good level surface. You then need to tread the soil with your heels to firm the ground before carrying out a final, light rake of the surface. Most turf these days is called cultivated turf which means that it’s been grown specifically from a seed mix to form good quality, hard wearing turf for ornamental lawns. You’ll be able to obtain cultivated turf from local turf suppliers or from your garden centre if you only need small quantities.

Lay the first line of turf at one end of the prepared area and then place a scaffold plank on this turf to walk on. This is to spread your weight, as you lay the second row, so that you don’t leave heel marks in the freshly laid turf. Lay the second row tight against the first but with the joints staggered from those in the first row just like in brick work. When all the turf has been laid, a fine mix of sand and soil, or compost, can be brushed in to these joints to help knit the turf together.

You now have an instant and vibrant green lush lawn to enjoy, but do resist the temptation to walk or play on it for three or four weeks until the roots have started to get a grip.



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