There’s a lot you can do in the garden in October, whether that’s making your garden look better, harvesting crops or planting new ones. These autumn gardening tips from Eden Project horticulturist, Julie Kendall, will help you get the most from your garden in October and prepare it for colder months ahead.

Eden Project horticulturist Julie Kendall

Contents

9 jobs for the garden in October:

1. Look after your lawn

Make sure you care for your lawn by raking or brushing leaves off the grass. Try collecting them in a leaf bag, which will turn them into leaf mould – a useful and versatile soil conditioner. You can also cut the grass for the final time of the year at the end of October. Make sure that the last cut is slightly higher than during the summer months – this will help to protect your lawn from winter frost damage.

2. Give the garden a tidy up

October is definitely the time for clearing up – greenhouses, ponds, gutters and water butts may all need cleaning out. Wooden garden furniture will need covering or storing for the winter and terracotta pots will need bringing inside, so that they don’t freeze and crack. If you don’t already have a compost heap or bin October is a great time to start one, with all the leaves and cuttings to be disposed of!

3. Sharpen up your hedges

Make sure that you trim your hedges so that they are crisp and tidy for the winter months. Sharp edges will look very impressive when coated in frost in winter.

4. Split up spring-flowering perennials

Divide herbaceous perennials, which flower in the spring, to ensure healthy, vigorous plants that will continue to perform year after year. It’s best to do this on a dry day when the soil is not too wet. Plant some of the newly divided plants back in the ground and take others to pot up and give away to friends!

5. Plant garlic

Garlic is best planted in autumn. Plant it in your vegetable patch with the pointed ends up, just below the soil surface and spaced 10cm apart.

5. Plant spring-flowering bulbs

Plant bulbs to ensure a colourful display when spring arrives. Try planting clumps of five or seven bulbs of the same variety through a border, for a really effective display sure to impress! Plant them at a depth equal to twice the height of the bulb.

6. Start spring bedding in beds and containers

Plant out spring bedding and biennials, such as wallflowers. Pots and hanging baskets can be planted with spring bedding and teamed with bulbs, grasses, cyclamen and violas for a colourful display, with lots of glorious texture.

7. Grow hyacinths for winter flowers and fragrance

Plant prepared hyacinths in vases to provide winter scent and a splash of colour to your home. For hyacinths that will flower around the Christmas period, make sure you buy bulbs that are labelled ‘prepared’ and plant them in early October.

8. Harvest pumpkins

Pumpkins that were planted in April, May and June will be ready for harvesting in October. Big or small, they make fun Halloween decorations and can be added to sweet and savoury dishes. If you have any spare, why not recycle them by hollowing them out to make a new bird feeder!

9. Protect plants and structures from frost

Preparation is key before frost, snow and high winds arrive. Check any high structures such as fences, sheds and gates for signs of weakness and rot in October. Insulate any outdoor containers from frost using bubble wrap or fleece and where possible, move pots of tender or borderline hardy pots into a greenhouse!

Liquidambar styraciflua in autumn at The Eden Project

For more information about The Eden Project, visit edenproject.com.

For advice on how to improve your garden on a budget, click here.

  • Get your soil tested and add amendments as needed.
  • Amend your soil with a dressing of compost
  • Turn your compost pile.
  • Use your garden debris and leaves to start a new compost pile.
  • Plant trees and shrubs. Be sure to keep them well-watered, even through the winter (snow permitting).
  • Make sure all vacationing houseplants are brought back inside.
  • Continue planting garlic.
  • Plant cool-season annuals. Covering mums and asters on nights when a frost is expected, will lengthen their blooming.
  • Clear away dead foliage.
  • Dry and save seed.
  • Take cuttings of tender perennials.
  • Harvest and dry or freeze herbs for winter use.
  • Remove green tomatoes from the plants. Either ripen in a brown paper bag or lift the entire plant and hang upside down in a warm spot, to ripen.
  • Harvest winter squash once the vines die back, but definitely before a hard freeze.
  • Continue harvesting fall crops like beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, and leeks.
  • Clean and put away empty containers and garden ornaments.
  • Clean and sharpen gardening tools.
  • Continue winterizing your water garden
  • Clean bird feeders.
  • Think about a de-icer for the birdbath. If you’re in an area that freezes and you don’t have a de-icer, turn your birdbath over to keep it from cracking.
  • Enjoy the season. Show off your harvest with a fall display.
  • Then start thinking about putting your garden to bed.

Gardening in October: Plant bulbs outside for spring and inside in pots for winter colour.

Perennials

If you haven’t already, this is the time to order or buy your spring bulbs. Plant now and you’ll have flowers from February to May. The general rule is to plant at twice the depth of the height of the bulbs, so bigger bulbs go deeper into the soil, with the pointed end up. They can be planted together, but the order of flowering is:

• January: Winter aconites

• February: Snowdrops/Crocuses

• March: Daffodils

• April: Tulips

• May: Alliums

Bulbs planted in the lawn can look pretty, but you won’t be able to mow until after the flowers are gone and the leaves yellowed. If you cut the leaves off too early, the bulb won’t be able to make the food it needs to store for growing next year. You could leave a swathe of lawn for bulbs and keep the rest of the grass cut. Or, another solution is to turn your lawn into a wildflower meadow so the summer flowers take over from the bulbs and grow up around them.

Lift tender summer bulbs such as gladioli and dahlias and store in a cool, dry place. Traditionally this is the month to cut back perennials, but a new school of thought says leaving the dead stems is good for wildlife and may also provide protection for the roots. Traditionalists will claim the stems harbour pests and diseases. Horticulturally, it makes little difference when they’re cut back as long as it’s done before new growth starts next spring.

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Fruit and vegetables

Garlic bulbs and onion sets should be planted now, and transplant spring cabbages to their final position.

Harvesting

Dig up temporary summer crops – runner beans, root veg such as carrots and beetroot, and pumpkins and squashes. Leave vegetables that can be harvested into autumn and winter, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbages and cauliflowers. Pick the last of any summer crop fruits such as raspberries, apples and pears.

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‘October is a good month for planting large trees and shrubs. It gives their roots time to get established before winter sets in.’ – David Domoney

Lawn

Clear away the leaves as any left on the lawn will damage it.

Indoor bulbs

Experiment with bulbs in pots – try something unusual, or go for tried-and-tested crocuses, tulips and daffodils. These will flower indoors earlier than they would outside, so in January you’ll have your own preview of spring.

Prepared bulbs – usually amaryllis and hyacinths – have been through a series of cold treatments to trigger the growing process and can be in flower for Christmas. When you plant them, remember they can get very top heavy so make sure the soil and pot are weighty enough. Finish off the top of the soil with a layer of grass or moss.

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IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING…

….cover anything that might be damaged by frost. Most herbaceous perennials will be wintering underground and can be protected with a layer of bark compost. Bring small succulents indoors and protect larger plants such as tree ferns where they stand by tying horticultural fleece around their tops.

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

PLANT OF THE MONTH

Gaura: This is an amazing plant – it has a delicate filigree of flowers all the way through from May and will still be going strong until the first frosts. The more usual white variety is called Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’, though there are pink ones available too.

Thompson & Morgan Gaura lindheimeri thompson & morgan thompson-morgan.com £3.99

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10 of the best hedgehog houses for gardens

Featured on TV Hogilo Hedgehog Home Wildlife World amazon.co.uk £78.99

• Featured on BBC’s Autumnwatch.

• Made from durable FSC timber and recycled plastic.

• The swivel roof lid provides easy access inside the Hogilo for cleaning, feeding or tending to recovering hedgehogs.

• An overhanging roof and porch gives protection against the rain.

Most stylish Wooden Hedgehog House Wudwerx notonthehighstreet.com £115.00

• Entrance tunnel into shelter prevents cats, dogs, and foxes from getting in.

• Removable back panels allow easy access for cleaning of the house.

• Made from FSC wood.

Most durable Hedgehog House Garden Life vanmeuwen.com £29.99

• Made using durable wood and features a waterproof roof, pre-treated with hedgehog-safe water-based varnish to ensure it survives the elements of British weather.

• Camouflaged green roof keeps the hedgehogs safe and out of sight.

• Made of durable fir wood and features a pitched roof that helps water runoff.

Best sturdy frame Hedgehog House, Wicken Fen Collection National Trust nationaltrust.org.uk £35.00

• This rattan hedgehog house provides a safe habitat with a sturdy steel frame covered with a waterproof felt lining.

• The wooden entrance door forms a short predator defence tunnel, small enough to deter access by dogs or badgers.

Most Camouflaged Tiggy Wooden Hedgehog House Garden Selections notonthehighstreet.com £29.99

• Handmade from natural barkwood with moss for added camouflage.

• The doorway provides extra protection as it protrudes from the main body of the shelter.

Best waterproof roof Igloo hedgehog home Waitrose Garden waitrosegarden.com £22.99

• Provides a cosy sanctuary from pets, predators, harsh weather and garden tools.

• Accommodates a family.

• Features a felted waterproof roof covered with a brush wood finish and decorated with rattan bands.

Easy to clean Hedgehog House WL014 Tom Chambers amazon.co.uk £30.99

• Solid, sturdy safe house.

• Made from stained FSC wood and genuine slate roof, which keeps the house cool in summer.

Perfect for single hedgehog Hedgehog House Garden Trading gardentrading.co.uk £50.00

• Safe and secure with a small opening to prevent cats, dogs and foxes from getting in.

• Crafted in Spruce, the sturdy and durable material is left untreated, as chemicals can be harmful for the inhabitants.

Snug shelter Hedgehog house Waitrose Garden waitrosegarden.com £29.59

• Sturdy hedgehog house provides a snug shelter.

• Pitched and felted roof helps water run off to prolong the life of the wood.

• Made from fine-grained timber.

Price-friendly Hogitat Hedgehog House Garden Selections notonthehighstreet.com £19.99

• Sturdy, rust-proofed steel frame and waterproofed roof.

• It’s an economic & safe retreat for hedgehogs.

The House Beautiful team From the team at House Beautiful

RHS monthly jobs

You can still plant bare root hedging, trees, shrubs and fruit now, getting them off to a good start early in the new growing season

Topdress indoor citrus plants or repot if necessary with John Innes No 2 compost with a little added sand or grit

If the soil is workable plant some early-flowering heathers – Erica flowers are a bee-magnets and plants will grow in any soil, in sun or light shade

Buy seed potatoes as soon as possible for the best choice. Chit tubers by placing them ‘eye’ end up in trays or egg boxes in a light, cool but frost-free place

Sow crops such as broad beans and lettuce and place in greenhouses or cold frames for earlier havests

Cut back the side shoots of wisteria shortened during last summer, pruning to two or three buds.

Kitchen garden

  • Create a new asparagus bed and keep weed free with a thick mulch of well-rotted organic matter. Order AGM cultivars such as ‘Backlim’, the late cropping ‘Lucullus’ or ‘Gijlim’ for spring planting
  • Apply a dressing of fertiliser – Growmore as directed by the manufacturer or blod,fish & bone – and mulch around tree, bush and cane fruit after pruning
  • Overwintering mint will now have deteriorated so repot some of the healthiest sections of root and keep in a sheltered location
  • It is not too late to plant garlic. Plant the individual cloves 15cm (6in) apart and 4cm (1.5in) deep. Avoid garlic cloves bought from a supermarket – they may carry disease and may not be suited to the climate but choose AGM cultivars such as ‘Solent Wight’ and ‘Arno’

Ornamental Gardens

  • Plant new climbers such as clematis and honeysuckles, making sure they are situated at least 45cm (18ins) from the wall or fence to avoid the potentially dry ‘rain shadow’ area
  • Prune summer-flowering deciduous shrubs, usually those that flower on the current year’s growth. Shrubs that need regular pruning include Buddleja davidii, Ceratostigma, Hydrangea paniculata, Lavatera, Leycesteria, Perovskia, hardy fuchsias, and deciduous Ceanothus.
  • Prune floribunda and hybrid tea roses as growth is just resuming, usually in mid-February in the south, but in northern and colder areas wait until March.
  • Finish weeding and digging borders and new planting areas and cut down any dead perennials before newly emerging growth
  • Renovate deciduous hedges including beech and hornbeam by up to half in height and width and follow with an application of general fertiliser such as Growmore or fish, blood and bone to encourage vigorous regrowth

Glasshouse and indoor plants

  • Prune back the stems of overwintering fuchsia to two buds to encourage bushy compact new growth
  • Cut back or thin indoor climbers such as Stephanotis floribunda, Hoya carnosa and Mandevilla
  • Hardy annuals offer long lasting flowers in the summer months. Marigolds (Calendula and Tagetes species), Cerinthe major var. purpuracens and Orlya grandiflora can be started off indoors

Pest and Disease Watch

  • Complete spraying with plant oil winter wash, used to treat overwintering eggs of aphid pests such as plum aphid or cherry blackfly on dormant deciduous fruit trees and bushes (e.g. Growing Success Winter Tree Wash or Vitax Winter Tree Wash)
  • Watch out for downy mildew and black spot on winter pansies. Remove any infected leaves and destroy badly affected plants. To avoid the build-up of diseases, do not plant pansies in the same place every year
  • Watch for damping off in seedlings – warm moist conditions and poor air circulation encourage collapse and decay, especially damaging in spring when light levels and temperatures are low and seedlings grow slowly

Five things you should be doing in your garden this weekend

If the bad weather has kept you out of your garden the past few weekends then this Saturday and Sunday is the time to put those green-fingers to work.

This weekend is set to be the first completely dry weekend we have seen in weeks, and it shouldn’t be too cold either. Perfect gardening weather.

September is an important month for gardening. The weather is still fairly warm, perfect for planting spring bulbs as well as preparing your garden for the colder months which are just around the corner.

Top five September gardening tips:

1) Start your compost.

You’ll need your compost next spring to replenish the goodness that it will inevitably lose over winter and autumn debris is a compostable gold mine.

2) Get planting

There may be a nip in the air but the soil is still warm so get your container grown shrubs, trees, fruit bushes, perennials and bulbs in the soil soon.

Got a vegetable patch? Now is the time to plant your potatoes for Christmas, as they will be ready to harvest in 12 weeks.

3) Get the lawn sorted

If your lawn has had a tough summer of sun and paddling pools now is the time to give it a little TLC.

Sprinkle grass seed mixed with compost over the lawn to thicken its growth.

4) Insulate your greenhouse

Your plants are going to need the warmth so check all your heaters are working, insulate your greenhouse and bring any tender plants under cover before they get frosted.

5) Tidy up

Trim borders, mow the lawn, cover your pond and give your flower beds a thorough weeding.

Any pests or diseases in your garden now will come back with a vengeance next year so it is best to get everything in order now to increase your chance of a beautiful garden next summer.

Some of you have sent us pictures of your summer garden transformations. Check out these incredible before and after pictures from our readers.

If you are looking to plant and want to know what the must have plants are for this time of year, gardening expert Paul Tyler has given us his top tips.

“A must have plant for this time of the year, is Chrysanthemum Broadway Lights, this vigour strong growing plants, carries a mass of clear lemon flowers on strong stems, a very hardy and reliable perennial

Growing to 75cm (30”) Plant in well prepared soil, in full sun or partial shade, keep well watered after planting.

“Lavender is a popular plant, it needs to be grown in a well drained soil, or in a container, add some coarse sand into then soil when planting. Lavenders should be grown in sunny position, flowers can be removed and dried, for use indoors. Trim over the plant in March and feed to produce a compact bushy plant. One of the best varieties to grown for colour and scent is Lavendula angustifolia Hidcote.

Lavender

“The tall red flowers of Crocosmia Lucifer make quite a display to any borders when other plants have finished this hardy perennial can grow quite tall, so plant more to the back or centre of a boarder.

Crocosmia will grow in full sun or partial shade, in a moist but well drained soil. Clumps can be divided in spring to rejuvenate them.

“Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia Little Goldstar a fully hardy compact plant with large golden yellow flowers which attract bees from August to October, it grows to a height of 50cm (20”) which is ideal for small gardens, it will grow in full sun or partial shade, and will grow in a clay soil if it is well prepared. Remove faded flowers regularly this will encourage more flowers to be produced.

“Hebes (veronica) there are many different varieties of this plant, which can be grown in the garden or in pots, these evergreen plants, will grow in a well prepared soil in a sunny position. They produce masses of flowers which attract insects and butterflies to the garden, Hebes need to be kept moist especially if planted in a container, trim over in spring and feed to keep the plants bushy and compact.

Hebes

“Keep all plants well watered, especially those in containers, and feed once a week with a liquid feed if it is very warm water in the evening, so that the plants can take up the water, Dead heading of summer bedding and hardy perennials will encourage more flowers to be produced. Treat any Pest and Disease as soon as you see them, as they can quick spread especially in pots and containers.”

If you would like any ore tips from Paul he hosts a Gardens Club, the first Wednesday of every month at 10am, Daisy Nook Garden Centre.

Have you transofrmed your garden this summer?

We want to see pictures of your hard work. Send them to [email protected] with Gardens in the subject line and we will put them all into an online gallery. Don’t forget to tell us your name and where in Greater Manchester you live.

Believe it or not, winter is ending soon, which means the time is ripe to get our plans in order for this year’s garden, whether you’re dreaming of a bounty of vegetables, a balcony of colorful flowers, or some other sort of outdoor oasis. Here are our top 10 get-ready-to-garden tips.

The savviest gardeners have probably already made their plans, but it’s not too late for the rest of us. With gardening, timing is almost everything, so start as soon as you can to take advantage of the long growing season up ahead.

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10. Start Seeds Indoors

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Depending on what you want to plant and where you live, this advice might be too late (but you can try to play catchup or save it for next year!). Starting seeds indoors gives you a leg up on the growing season and is cheaper than buying starter plants. Previously mentioned All Things Plants will tell you when to start seeds indoors or plant them in the ground directly based on your area’s last frost date. (While you’re at it, convert coffee grounds into starter pots for planting, and be gentle with your seedlings by spritzing them instead of pouring water on them. They’re just babies, after all. Protect them when you plant them outdoors with old paper towel rolls.)

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9. Sharpen Your Tools

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As with cooking tools, home improvement tools, and most other tools, the sharper the better. Get your pruning shears, shovels, and other tools in shape before you have to use them and you’ll save time and effort in the long run. Even the lawn mower blade could use some sharpening and a tuneup. Bonus tip: Take care of your garden tools after each use and they’ll stay in good shape for years to come.

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8. Try Beginner Gardening Projects

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What if you want to garden but don’t know where to begin at all? Or have tried to but don’t have a naturally green thumb? These starter ideas and resources, such as container gardening, can ease you into gardening successfully for the first or fiftieth time. Bag gardens in particular are not only low-effort, they overcome soil issues and help build soil for next year. Also, if you have kids, make sure to have them pitch in too. It’s not only educational and fun, it might turn them into healthy eaters as well.

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7. Get Your Soil Ready

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Besides seeing your plants grow (and harvesting your vegetables, if you have a veggie garden), one of the most enjoyable aspects of gardening is buying the seeds or plantings and putting them in the soil. The manual labor of breaking up clods of soil, raking and aerating it? Not so much. But you have to get the soil ready before you plant. Gizmodo explains how to work the soil:

If last year’s bumper crop has depleted your soil’s nutrient content, you’ll need to amend it before planting again. The process of amending soil involves adding materials in order to augment or modify the soil’s physical characteristics. Sandy soils, for example, need amendments that increase its water and nutrient holding capacity, while clay soils need amendments that improve its aeration and porosity. Pick up a soil test kit from your local home improvement center to determine the plot’s pH balance. This, in addition to the type of soil you have, determines the type of amenity you’ll need. Make sure you bring a small bag of soil with you when you go to buy the kit and save yourself the return trip to buy the necessary amendments. Once you do have all the amendments you need, it’s just a matter of digging up the top 6 to 12 inches of existing soil, thoroughly mixing the materials in, and then raking them level.

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It’s like one big geeky science project! Mix coffee grounds into your soil while you’re at it to deter slugs and other pests, as well as put a smile on acid-loving plants. If you’re preparing a particularly weedy area for planting, try using a piece of cardboard to get rid of the weeds en masse or these DIY weed killers to keep weeds from sprouting.

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6. Make Compost to Supercharge Your Garden

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Compost is the superfood for plants. You can turn food scraps, leaves, lawn clippings, and other otherwise useless “green waste” like these into nutrient-rich fertilizers and soil amendments for your plants. A compost bin powered by worms will produce compost in much less time than other kinds of the aerobic kind, but if you’re not keen on being so close to a big bin of worms, you can create a compost tea instead, blend old food scraps for instant compost, or see if your community offers free compost (and mulch). After clearing the planting area and removing weeds, add a 4-inch layer of compost to new beds and work it well into the soil along with any other nutrients.

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5. Prune Shrubs and Trees, and Divide Perennials

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Winter is the best time to prune your trees and shrubs, before new growth and warm weather can increase the risk of disease. Just make sure you do it properly, lest you do irreparable damage to the tree or shrub. BHG says to prune fruit trees before buds begin to break into bloom, otherwise you could get a tinier crop due to stressing the tree. It’s also a good time to divide perennials before plants have begun their spring growth.

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4. Choose New Plants Wisely

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Plants need to be matched to the environment that they’ll live in—the soil, lighting, and other climate conditions. Even the best gardeners probably couldn’t make sun-loving plants like daisies thrive in the shade. The good news is many plants aren’t too fussy. These are seven of the easiest vegetables to grow in your own yard, plants that don’t need too much water, the kinds of plants that work equally well in sunny and shady places, and the vegetables that save you the most money for your effort. You might also consider the plants that grow best together. In general, to choose the right plant for the right place, think of the amount of sunlight the location gets, the soil moisture, and your area’s hardiness zone. Tech tools like plant sensors can help optimize your garden as well.

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3. Know When to Plant and Harvest Them

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The other things you should know about your new plant friends are how long they will take to grow, how big they will grow, and, if they are vegetables, when you can finally eat them. This chart offers an overview for many vegetables (northern hemisphere-specific). You can also use the Farmer’s Almanac to find more information. As for other kinds of plants, you might not need to worry as much. Nurseries tend to stock plants when they’re flowering, because that’s when they’re most appealing, so you can just walk in and buy what you like (and is appropriate for that spot to spruce up your outdoor space).

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2. Create a Garden Layout That Works for You

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Whether you have a small space but are dead set on growing 100 pounds of potatoes in those four square feet or have acres to work with, the best gardens start with a detailed plan. Previously mentioned Smart Gardener not only helps you diagram your garden or landscape, it can recommend a garden plan based on your selected plants and location, along with a personalized gardening to do list and other intelligent features.

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If you’re short on space (and/or love symmetry), a square foot garden might be for you; this raised bed garden dedicates 1×1 square foot plots to specific plants and can be cost-effective. On the other hand, rounded edges could get you more planting space. We’ve also showcased several vertical and other small space gardens over the years, from the shoe organizer herb garden and this shipping pallet version to the simple salad in a box.

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1. Calibrate and Automate Your Garden

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Finally, gardening is a fun hobby, but it’s also hard work at times. Make it a little easier on yourself with some gardening hacks. For example, calibrate sprinklers so they always water your lawn just right (which means, as little as possible, conserving water). Build a drip irrigation system so you never forget to water your garden, or make an automatic plant watering systems using plastic bags. If you’re container gardening, you can make EarthBox-like self-watering planters. Or, even better, get your container garden to not only water itself but also tweet you when it needs a water refill. Gardens are so high-tech these days.

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Title photo remixed from an original by Pinkyone (). Photos by Stacie, Pleuntje, Kate Bolin, OakleyOriginals, USDA.gov, robinsan, crabchick.

Lifehacker’s Weekend Roundup gathers our best guides, explainers, and other posts on a certain subject so you can tackle big projects with ease. For more, check out our Weekend Roundup and Top 10 tags.

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Ten Tips for Creating Beautiful Gardens

Do you want to create a beautiful garden? No matter how small your space, there are design principles you can apply to beautify your balcony, porch or yard.

Beautiful gardens appeal to our senses. The colours and immense diversity of design combinations, fragrance, flavours, sounds from birds and insects attracted to the plants and variety of textures.

Go for a drive around your neighbourhood and take notice of the gardens that catch your eye or next time you visit a friend’s garden, be observant and tune in to what you love about it. No doubt they will be applying some design principles and elements that apply whether they are used in art, graphics, building, interior or garden design.

“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever.” – Richard Briers

Simple concepts can make a HUGE difference to the enjoyment of your garden space and particularly so, when it is a micro garden. Designers use these principles all over the world to make spaces really stand out and visually beautiful. Less really can be more if you know how.

An elegant terracotta planter is used as a focal point with purple and white flower theme. Understated beauty and a simple garden feature.

10 Tips for Beautiful Gardens in Small Spaces

1. Add flowers or flowering plants

Splashes of colour break up green, provide variety, contrast and focal points. Try sowing both annuals and perennial flowers. e.g. cosmos, hydrangeas, sunflowers and marigolds.

Edible purple common chive flowers make a pretty splash of colour in any pot or garden bed

Beneficial insects will also be attracted to your garden and they will happily pollinate and clean up any pests for you. Flowers are a ‘win-win’ in any garden.

Pansies and perennials planted in a pot look beautiful when using repeated colours and textures

Flowers have an amazing ability to beautify any space – just pick your favourite colour theme.

“Flowers are the beautiful hieroglyphics of nature with which she indicates how much she loves us.” – Goethe

2. Control weeds

Remove weeds before they go to seed. Compost plants that compete with what you really want in your garden. Why waste money by sharing your plant food and nutrients with freeloaders? Adding an attractive and practical mulch will deter weeds from setting seed.

You can also use decorative mulches like white gravel or pebbles to unify pots while preventing weeds

3. Group plants around a theme

Create a collection of plants with the same foliage or flower colour for greater impact. Theming an area of your garden by clever use of colour is an easy trick to use. Stand back and take a look at the colours in your garden now. Could you move them around for better effect?

For example, putting a punnet of four or six of the same coloured flower in a container for mass planting has a greater effect than just adding one flower.

A repurposed blue bath tub planter with repeated flowers around a dwarf tree create an eye catching display

Surrounding these with another contrasting colour will ‘frame’ the picture.

This simple principle adds balance and uses another design trick – repetition.

Mass planted red geraniums in pots create a focal point up steps against a stone wall

You can also achieve this simple technique by planting along the edge of a garden bed with a border plant. Or highlight the shape and colour of the container with repeated plantings. White, silver or grey and blue work well when they are teamed up with most other colours.

Here red geranium teams up with cascading Dichondra Silver Falls and silver Cineraria in beautiful blue pots

4. Add some garden art

Garden art can be any ornament, collection, treasured find or something you make. When you add decorative items to your garden, it reflects your personality and adds character to your small space.

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Add a touch of whimsy with something simple like these bird ornaments on an outdoor table

Stand back and see what the space needs. Perhaps a pot could be jazzed up with a small ornament.

Do you have a bare wall that you need to hide? Are you renting and you can’t paint the external walls? If so, try hanging a bamboo blind as a backdrop to your plants. Or staple some fabric to a lightweight timber frame in a contrasting colour and then position your pots and furniture in front.

This is portable decorating and can really help you enjoy your outdoor space for very little cost. You can also use this concept indoors.

5. Use colourful pots or feature containers

Feature planters can help draw the eye to a focal plant or area. A planter with a splash of colour is a simple example of ‘less is more.’

This feature window box planter has a simple contrasting purple theme with flowers selected in a thriller spiller and filler design

Do you have a special pot that makes a statement? Or a heavy weight pot or one with a beautiful fruit tree or favourite plant in it? You can again use design techniques to make this element look more important.

By contrasting the size of the plants or pots you surround it with, you can create dominance with the pot you want to highlight as the key feature. Ensure the ones you put around it are smaller than the focal pot. This helps to create unity, as the eye focuses on the feature pot and then around the rest of the surrounding garden.

6. Use multi-functional edible herbs and flowers

Herbs provide fresh ingredients for the kitchen, have edible flowers, make attractive borders and pleasing aromas.

Choose herbs like curly leafed parsley, clumps of chives, mounds of lemon thyme and compact Greek basil with marigolds, violets and tatsoi. Not only do they provide variation in colour but add beauty, flavour and structure too.

Thyme, oregano and rosemary herbs in terracotta pots make attractive and edible garden features

“Herbs are the friend of the physician and the pride of cooks.” – Charlemagne

7. Create unity and diversity

Achieve a beautiful garden by repeating a colour provided by a variety of different plants.

Colour themes are a very effective design trick for adding beauty. Here are some ideas for combinations to get started:

Even purple and white ornamental kale can look beautiful planted in a heart shaped garden feature

  • White, Grey & Blue – these colours go with everything: e.g. blue/green leeks; sages that have blue flowers (most of their flowers and leaves are edible); culinary sage; alyssum (white); cauliflower; and some cabbages.

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8. Choose a feature

For example, this may be a plant, statue, piece of garden art or even outdoor furniture. Whatever is special to you, highlight it by drawing the eye to it. Some ways you could do this are:

    • Choose a focus plant such as a productive citrus tree in a pot by centring it on your balcony or verandah.
    • As you come out the door it should catch your eye immediately. Use a pot or container that is a different colour to the others so it makes a statement. Under-plant around the base of the tree with some colourful annuals or groundcover. Position plants lower on either side of the pot so the eye goes to the tree first as the highest point.
    • Outdoor art can take many forms and be made from a wide range of materials. From pieces that sit in pots, on tables or furniture to wall mounted frames and collections, these can be a talking point and focus, or help theme your outdoor room.

      Flower pot men made out of terracotta pots and plants for ‘hair’ add a sense of fun. Get creative!

    • Edible art – with a little imagination, pots and containers with a highly productive food garden can also be a feature to highlight. One combination that works well is using the principle of proportion by putting a taller plant such as spring onions in the centre of a round pot and surround it with lower growing salad vegetables and herbs.
    • Select plants with different textures and colours, so you can come up with a striking combination. Diverse leaf colours, patterns and shapes can look beautiful together.

      Plant vegetables and herbs with a variety of colours and textures

  • Furniture – Are a table and chairs the focal point in your garden? Then add some colour to the table with a living arrangement. It can be a real drawcard for the eye. Choose fragrant flowers and herbs to engage the senses even further. Try herbs that you can use as a freshly picked garnish when eating outdoors like parsley, coriander and chives. They provide wonderful digestive enzymes too.

    A cosy setting in a small quaint garden surrounded with pots

9. Beautiful gardens avoid clutter

This may be challenging if you have a really small space and want to grow a lot of plants! However, overcrowding will only make access difficult and the overall use of the space challenging. Try to balance hard surfaces with the plants you select and avoid using too many different materials.

Consider growing some plants indoors and spread them out to areas of the home where they suit the light conditions. Ferns for example love the humidity and lower light conditions in many bathrooms whereas outdoors they may take up too much valuable personal space that could be better used for other plants or furniture.

Use vertical spaces like walls, railings, containers and hanging baskets to free up floor space on a small deck or balcony.

Hanging flower planters on a lattice fence take advantage of vertical space and eye catching beauty

10. Choose Variegated Foliage

In some circumstances where you may have reduced sunlight, you may not have many options to grow flowering plants. You can still add colour and structure by choosing plants carefully.

Even edibles like variegated sage with white, green and purple leaves are a stunning variety

Another option is to include variegated foliage that typically have one colour on the inside and a second colour around the edge of the foliage. Some ornamental varieties are Cordylines, Dracaenas, Mandevilla, Rhoeo and Sanseveria. Many striking varieties can also be grown indoors to enhance indoor beauty and improve our air quality.

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” – Elizabeth Murray

How have you added beauty to your garden?

Feel free to share your tips on what you love about your garden or check out more inspirational design ideas, clever plant container ideas and themes for kids’ gardens.

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2010-2013 – http://www.themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

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Gardening jobs for October

Our expert Which? guide to the gardening jobs you need to do in October such as clearing autumn leaves and planting spring bedding.

In this article:

  • Plant up spring pots
  • Clear leaves
  • Bring tender plants under protection
  • Turn the compost heap
  • Veg jobs for October

Plant up spring pots

If you haven’t already planted some containers with spring colour, there’s still time to plant now using bedding plants such as violas and wallflowers, plus spring-flowering bulbs.

Keep your pots in a sheltered spot, such as under a porch, to encourage blooms through the winter and to avoid plants rotting off in the winter wet. Cyclamen and ornamental cabbage are particularly vulnerable to rotting in damp conditions.

You won’t get masses of blooms during colder weather, but any milder spells should see a good show.

Be sure to use a Best Buy compost for containers.

Clear leaves

The simplest method of clearing leaves off the lawn is to run over them with a lawn mower. The cutting action of the mower blades will help to shred the leaves and make them quicker to rot down.

Collect leaves this way once a week – any longer and the grass will start to grow long and get harder to cut.

For clearing patios, paths and other surfaces, a leaf blower is a better bet. Either blow the leaves onto the lawn for the mower to pick up or blast them on to a tarpaulin and drag them to the compost heap.

Read our advice about what to do with autumn leaves.

Bring tender plants under protection

If you’ve got tender plants, such as canna, now’s the time to bring them indoors before they get killed by the frost.

Choose a light, frost-free place such as a greenhouse or coldframe. Then keep them on the dry side during the winter, so they don’t put on much growth.

The plants can then be brought back into growth in spring by gradually increasing the amount of water they receive

Turn the compost heap

As the garden is tidied in preparation for winter, lots of material is generated for composting. To encourage it to rot down quickly, turn the contents regularly to stir it up and allow in lots of air.

In the colder weather, the rate of decomposition will naturally decrease, but it will soon speed up during warmer spells.

Veg jobs for October

October sees the start of the winter-veg season.

  • Sow winter salads
  • Clear out greenhouse crops
  • Buy garlic

Read our full guide to the veg jobs for October.

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