october checklist

October in your garden

Here’s your October checklist and a quick guide to remind you what to do in your garden in October.

Seedling Newsflash!

First up on your October Checklist is ready-to-plant annuals in seedling trays are the fastest way to turn any garden into a Garden of Eden, and at this time of year you are spoiled for choice. Flower seedlings to plant include petunias, dianthus, penstemons, summer asters, sunpatiens, salvias, verbenas and celosias – all perfect for sunny spots. Seedling success relies on: Compost-enriched soil and regular feeding with a water-soluble fertiliser, so make sure that you stock up on these products as well.

Bountiful Flowers

Summer-flowering annuals like cosmos, marigolds, lobelias, portulacas, zinnias and sunflowers, as well as most summer vegetables and herbs, can be sown now that night temperatures are higher. Here are some handy tips when sowing in trays: Large seeds: Place a piece of chicken wire over the seed tray to make a template for sowing evenly. Use one seed per hole. Small seeds: Fine seeds such as those of lobelia can stick to your fingers and are difficult to spread out. Mix them with dry sand or bread flour in an old flour shaker and shake the mix lightly over damp soil.

Prime time for them

There are many new hybrids of Geraldton wax (Chamelaucium) and pincushion (Leucospermum) in flower now. Don’t miss out on planting a few of these beautiful and easy-to-grow shrubs that will supply you with magnificent cut flowers every spring.

Rose Companions as part of your October Checklist

Although roses dislike disturbance around their roots while growing actively, they don’t mind the presence of a living mulch, like a few dainty groundcovers and perennials to add more colour and romance to the rose garden. Bright colours and flowers to add now include creeping Jenny, cranesbill (Geranium incanum), snow-in-summer, chives, brachyscomes (different hybrids and colours), bindweed (Convolvulus), candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), scabiosa (pincushion flower) and sweet violet (Viola odorata).

Smart Planting

Perennials for all regions include agapanthus, daylilies, gauras, fuchsias, nemesias, osteospermums and geraniums of all kinds. Also go for abutilons, lavenders, gypsophila and masses of pretty but tough angelonias.

Begonias for all places

Gardening in shady areas can be tricky. Bedding begonias, available in seedling trays, fill that gap beautifully as each plant produces masses of waxy flowers to brighten the darkest of corners. It’s also planting time for gaudy tuberous begonias, which are perfect for patio pots and hanging baskets that receive dappled shade. Buy some tubers today and start planting! Some begonias, however, enjoy adding grace indoors, and among the many hybrids of Begonia elatior you will find the right colour to match your interior decor.

Beautiful Summer Lawn on your October Checklist

Mow regularly, making sure that you never cut off more than one third of the length of a leaf blade.

  • Water and fertilise regularly.
  • Keep the lawn level and free of depressions where water and debris can accumulate.
  • Rake up grass clippings and leaves to allow the lawn blades to photosynthesise efficiently.
  • Get rid of broadleaf weeds in existing lawns by spraying with a selective herbicide. Before spraying, fertilise your lawn, water well, wait two weeks and then spray for weeds. Repeat if necessary.

Spring Pruning

  • On roses and fruit trees, remove any growth sprouting from below the graft on the mother stock on which a variety was inoculated.
  • Cut off the dead flower stems of winter-flowering aloes.
  • Prune flowering peaches, almonds and ornamental quinces as soon as they have finished flowering.
  • Clip off spent flowers and growth tips on azaleas.
  • Shape citrus trees by removing excess growth and misshapen branches.

Water Gardening

Bog gardening (permanently wet soil) or actually planting in water can be interesting, and nurseries sometimes have the most fascinating plants in stock for this purpose. Water lilies are simply exquisite and there are indigenous and exotic species and hybrids to choose from. They are deep-water aquatics normally growing in large ponds and dams, but can also be planted in about 30 – 60cm deep water in a portable water feature such as a ceramic pot or a waterproof wooden barrel on a sunny balcony or stoep.

Water irises (or Louisiana irises) have evergreen, strap-like foliage that creates a perfect foil for large, showy flowers appearing in profusion in spring. A wide colour range is available. The marsh lily (Crinum campanulatum) is an indigenous aquatic bulb with white to rose-pink, bell-shaped flowers that mature to deep-rose or red. Plant in moist soil or 20cm-deep water. Cyperus papyrus ‘Little Giant’ is a compact form of the old Egyptian papyrus with sturdy stems topped with large, tufted ‘mop heads’. Colocasia esculenta ‘Tea Cups’ is an elephant’s ear with dark green, up-turned leaves that form a perfect cup.

Home Freshener

Homes can smell a bit stuffy after a long winter. Fill a spray bottle with 3 cups of lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 3 tablespoons of fabric softener. Mix well and spray around the house

General Yard Stuff

Watch out for insects such as aphids, mealybugs and whitefly on soft new growth and control infestations with the correct insecticide.

  • Freshen up garden containers containing specimen plants like lollipop standards by pruning them neatly to maintain a round shape. Remove the top layer of potting soil and replace with a fresh layer of compost.
  • Remove spent flowers from spring bulbs and annuals, and stake perennials as their stems become longer. • Remember to put out cutworm bait after planting young seedlings.
  • After the first spring rain, apply mulches around all shrubs and trees to conserve moisture in the soil.
  • Repot ferns into fresh potting soil and start feeding them every two weeks with a liquid fertiliser mixed at half-strength. Place houseplants like orchids or ferns that love humidity in the atmosphere on pot trays filled with gravel and a little water.
  • Clean up succulents like echeverias and Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, which will have stopped flowering, and divide and replant the babies in other parts of the garden.
  • Prune honey marguerites (Euryops virgineus) and all the buddleja species as soon as they have finished flowering.
  • Feed hydrangeas to get them ready for Christmas.
  • Feed guavas, litchis, pecan nuts and mangoes.
  • Buy potted roses to brighten up indoor rooms or your patio.
The Gardener