Seeds to Sow in October
October is increasingly seen as a busy month in the garden. Autumn, with its often mild, moist conditions is a great time to get many gardening jobs done and these can often include seed sowing. This part of the year is, of course, the natural time when many seeds ripen and fall the to the ground; the soil is still warm from summer and higher rainfall means that germination is often quick.
Gardeners can take advantage of these condition by raising from seed a range of hardy plants and vegetables, outside or in a greenhouse or cold frame. Anything tender should be avoided, as while it may be mild now, winter frosys are just around the corner and your efforts will be wasted.
To see all seeds that can be sown in October, take a look here.
Top Seeds to Sow in October
You can begin sowing sweet peas for next year’s displays in October. By sowing in autumn, you will have plants that are well established and ready to be planted out early next spring. Plants will be ready to flower earlier than those sown in spring, with multiple shoots providing a greater number of flowering stems.
Seed needs to be sown into deep pots or ‘root trainers’ (long, thin pots specially designed for sweet pea root establishment) under cover, ideally in a cold greenhouse or cold frame. You will need to care for the plants through winter, watering and protecting from mice that can nibble young seedlings, but your plants will be strong and ready for putting out in late March.
Try the original sweet pea, Unwins Sweet Pea Cupani!
Orlaya is a popular, hardy annual flower that often performs best from an autumn sowing, producing beautiful heads of white, lacy flowers above delicate foliage from late spring if sown now in a greenhouse or cold frame.
Sow seeds in small pots, placing two to three per pot. They will germinate easily: keep undercover through winter, watering as required. Plants will be ready to go out in spring after they have hardened off and they'll begin flowering sooner – and with more gusto than those raised in spring. Use it in the border or as a charming cut flower.
Grow your own with Unwins Orlaya White Lace Flower Seeds.
These popular cottage garden classics (Alcea rosea) contribute so much to gardens through summer, with their lofty spires of colourful, insect-attracting flowers, and they’re easy to grow from seed.
Sowing in autumn under glass means that you’ll have good-sized plants to put out in spring that should flower the following summer. Plants are often not long-lived outdoors and replacing them regularly helps to ensure a good display.
For a beautiful mixture of pink, yellow, apricot, red and white, try sowing Unwins Hollyhock Chater's Double Mix.
You can sow popular and versatile lettuce ‘Winter Gem’ under glass or in a cold frame this month for cropping during winter for tasty salads.
Sow it directly into a greenhouse border or under a frame. Some lettuce can still be sown outdoors selections such as ‘Arctic King’ and ‘Winter Density’.
Other seeds to sow now
Seeds to sow
Seeds to sow inside• Delphinium• Aquilegia• Achillea• Echinops• Digitalis• Lupin
- Seeds to sow directly outside (especially in mild areas)• Cerinthe major• Calendula• Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica)• Honesty (Lunaria)• Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) and other wildflowers
Seeds to sow
- Seeds to sow inside• Chinese leaves – as cut-and-come again• Cauliflower for early planting next year
- Seeds to sow directly outside• Broad beans• Spring onions (best under a cloche)• Winter purslane• Lamb’s lettuce• Green manures
Seeds to sow
- Seeds to sow inside on a window sill• Basil• Chives• Dill
Caring for Plants
October is the ideal month for tending to lawns that have suffered through summer due to drought or over-use, as the conditions are mild, damp and perfect for growth. Now is the time to over-sow bald batches, to scarify using a lawn rake to remove moss and thatch, to aerate compacted areas using a fork or hollow-tine aerator, and to top dress.
The mild and moist ground also makes this the ideal month to plant a wide range of trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials. All will establish well now without too much extra care – the only ones to avoid are those that are on the tender side. Plants such as Cistus and lavender are better planted in spring.
Many existing perennials can be divided and replanted now, because it's a good way to rejuvenate borders. Again, avoid disturbing tender plants – these together with most ornamental grasses can be left until spring.
October is prime bulb-planting season. Buy all that you need now for borders, pots and indoor use in winter. Delay planting tulips until November to avoid tulip fire.
Move any tender plants still outside under glass. Dahlias and cannas can be lifted once frosted, cleaned off and stored somewhere frost-free, away from nibbling rodents.
Compost any remaining summer bedding and replace with winter interest plants such as cyclamen and pansies.
You can plant garlic cloves this month for harvesting next year.
Apples and pears will now be ripe and ready to harvest. Pick as many as you can and store before autumn gales turn perfect fruits to bruised windfalls.
The last tomatoes will be forming, so pick green fruits and ripen indoors on a sunny window sill.
If you have beetroot and carrots these will still be ready for pulling now.
Pumpkins and squash should now be ripe: tap the fruit to see if it sounds hollow. Cut from the vine before the frosts, removing as much of the stem as possible to prevent rot and allow them to ‘cure’ in a sunny place such as a greenhouse for a couple of weeks, then store somewhere cool and airy.
Thinking About Next Month
Get ready to wrap any tender plants that remain outside through winter, such as tree ferns and hardy bananas.
Move potted plants to sheltered positions to prevent wind and cold damage. Stand pots on pot feet to avoid waterlogging.
Clear up fallen leaves, especially those that drop into ponds. Net ponds if you have overhead branches.
Obtain fresh yellow rattle seed for sowing in wildflower areas, to reduce vigour of grasses.