October is a great time to get ahead in the UK, and make early sowings and plantings of flowers, fruit and vegetable crops that will give you a head start on the year ahead. In the vegetable patch, you can make a start on onions, garlic, broad beans and peas, making excellent use of bare soil and giving you earlier crops next season. October also marks the beginning of bare-root planting season, so you can plant bare-root apples, pears and other fruit trees, along with fruiting shrubs such as blackcurrants and gooseberries.
In the ornamental garden and cut flower patch, you can make final sowings of hardy annuals to overwinter for an early flush of spring flowers, along with perennials that need a cold spell to aid germination, such as primulas. Bedding plants, such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots can be planted out now, ready for spring displays.
There’s still time to plant spring bulbs – find out more in our complete guide to planting bulbs.
Vegetables to plant in October
For an early crop of peas next spring, sow hardy cultivars like ‘Avola’ and ‘Meteor’. Sow direct in 5cm drills in the ground or in guttering or root trainers to plant out in a couple of weeks. October is also a good time to plant out peas sown in root trainers or guttering in September.
Salad mixes are one of easiest crops to grow. From an October sowing, you may get a small crop before winter, but then the plants will enter dormancy and not start growing again until March, when they’ll provide you with an early crop of fresh salad leaves. Sow direct in well-prepared soil or in pots. Cover with a cloche to protect from the worst of the weather, or move pots into a greenhouse or similar for shelter.
Sown in October, broad beans will germinate and put on some growth before entering winter dormancy. Then, as temperatures increase again in spring, they will romp ahead and provide you with a spring harvest a few weeks sooner than spring-sown plants. Sow direct in the soil or in multi-celled trays to plant out in a couple of weeks. Now’s also the time to plant out broad beans sown in September.
Early-summer cropping cauliflower cultivars like ‘Snowball’ can be sown now to overwinter, and then planted out in spring. Sow in multi-celled trays and thin out to one seedling per cell. Keep under cover such as in a greenhouse or cold frame, and then plant out in spring.
Planted in autumn, garlic cloves will grow roots before winter and will get off to a head start on spring-sown garlic as soon as temperatures increase again, cropping by early summer. Choose a mixture of softneck and hardneck varieties for a good mix of flavours and uses. Plant into multi-celled trays or small pots for planting out later, if you have heavy soil.
Many varieties of onion can be planted as sets, now. Choose autumn-planting varieties like ‘Radar’. Plant the sets into well-prepared, fertile soil. onions need a lot of moisture – you shouldn’t need to water in winter but check moisture levels in spring and summer and provide extra moisture if necessary.
Flowers to plant in October
Hardy annual phacelia is one of the best plants for bees and other pollinators, and it makes a great green manure. Sow direct in well-prepared soil or in a seed tray for planting out in spring, for late spring blooms.
Cowslips (Primula veris) are tough perennials that do best in a partially shady spot near water, such as on the pond edge. Fresh seeds need a cold period to germinate, so sow fresh seed in October in seed trays or multi-celled trays. Store outside but with protection from wind, heavy rain and squirrels, such as in a cold frame. Look for signs of germination in spring, and them pot on when seedlings are large enough to handle.
This pretty Mediterranean native is commonly known as white laceflower. Sow in a seed tray in autumn to overwinter in a cold frame, for early blooms next year.
Spring bedding plants like wallflowers can be planted out now, ready to bloom in early spring. Plant in well-prepared soil or pots. They work well with daffodils.
Honeywort makes an excellent cut flower, and its glaucous blue-green leaves are a great foil for other colours in the garden and vase. Its bell-shaped flowers are a magnet for bees, particularly the hairy footed flower bee. Sow seeds into individual pots or multi-celled trays now, and keep over winter in a cold frame, before planting out in spring.
Fruit to plant in October
Apples and pears
October is the start of bare-root planting season, where trees and shrubs are available to buy for a fraction of the price they are sold as potted plants. Choose from trees growing on standard or dwarfing rootstocks – some can even be grown in pots.
- How to grow apples
- How to grow pears
- Buy apple trees from Thompson & Morgan
- Buy pear trees from Thompson & Morgan
Currants and gooseberries
Currents and gooseberries are also available to buy cheaply as bare-root plants between October and March. Plant them as soon as they arrive, as this gives them the best chance of becoming established before temperatures fall. You can plant them in a temporary spot (known as heeling in) if you need to.