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  • Sue

October in the garden

And still we swelter in this exceptional weather - temperatures in the low 30s at the beginning of October in SW France means that some September jobs have had to be delayed until this month. I am hesitating to transplant anything in the garden just yet whereas normally I like to have everything divided and moved before the clocks go back - which will be in 4 weeks time. So I am still cutting back and preparing sites for new plants and watering pots in the evening. Here are some other jobs I will be getting on with this month:

Plant bulbs. The ground was too hard to consider planting daffodils and crocii last month, but they will be fine if I plant them in October along with alliums and muscari. I will leave tulips until November, which is normal anyway, and snowdrops will be planted "in the green" in January and February.

When you plant daffodils choose rich soil which does not get too dry and plant them deep. This depends on the size of the bulb as some daffodils have enormous bulbs and others less so. I make a point of planting daffodils in groups of three to five bulbs. I dig a hole which is at least four times the depth of the daffodil bulb and sit the bulbs in the bottom, on a small handful of compost, before filling it in again. Daffodil bulbs prefer not to dry out completely and if planted in too shallow a hole they rapidly go "blind" - i.e. you get only leaves and no flowers.

Crocii are a different matter - they are happy in dry soil and if you choose the right variety will naturalise happily under deciduous trees and on sunny banks. They grow from corms, not bulbs, so are botanically different to daffodils (and botanically different to the yellow crocus like plants which bloom here each September - these are Stenbergia, they grow from bulbs and are closely related to daffodils). I plant crocus corms individually in grass. To make them look natural - throw a handful on the grass and plant them individually where they fall. I use a chisel and bang it into the ground to create a hole. I sprinkle a little compost in the hole, drop in a corm (round root-y end at the bottom) and fill the hole in again. It is quite therapeutic.

Lift and dividing perennial plants - such as asters, when they have finished flowering, stachys lanata (lambs' lugs), nepeta (catmint), lamiums (dead nettles) and alstroemeria. It is also an excellent time to order perennial plants from nurseries as you can plant them while the ground is still warm and the roots have every chance of getting established quickly.

Move evergreen shrubs - the end of October is a good time to do this as the ground is warm enough and there should be sufficient humidity around.

Prune hedges and Italian cypress trees - we avoided doing this in September because the hot weather had stressed the plants, but it is diaried for the middle of this month.

Order roses - to be planted "bare rooted" over the winter months.

In the vegetable garden it is a time for harvesting the last of summer vegetables - tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines and chillis. I will be making chilli jam, using the last tomatoes and powerful Piccante a Mazzetti chillis. You can access the recipe here: The green poblano chillis we grew for the first time this year are marvellous oven roasted and eaten as part of a tapas meal, along with baba ganouche, which is made from aubergines and tahini. We will be picking the last of the beans. Once harvested, we cut off the top growth of the bean plant but leave the roots in the ground as they have nobbly roots which contain nitrogen - valuable for soil fertility next year. We are still sowing crops of a lettuce called Merveille des Quatre Saisons which will continue to grow for the rest of the year along with lambs lettuce, rocket and mustard for winter salads.

Looking slightly surreal - we pick kohl rabi when they smaller than a tennis ball.

Pumpkin time - we pick our pumpkins in September, but they need to be hardened off in the sunshine if they are to store for any period of time - similarly with the butternut squashes. During October they are brought in and stored in a well ventilated frost free area in our barn.

Quince and crab apples - the last of the year's fruit will be harvested this month.

We leave some crab apples on the tree as they still look fantastic once the leaves have dropped.

Finally - the big crop of this month will be walnuts. It is always a race against the sanglier to get them once they have fallen from the walnut trees. We are considering fencing the garden to keep the pigs out, because they are so destructive - they plough up the garden, crash through ornamental beds and, last year, they ate all of my tulip bulbs. I don't want a fence because I love the open views we have across the surrounding vineyards, but the destruction wrought by a family of sanglier in one night has to be seen to be believed.

Go away.........little piggy

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