October Garden Jobs for the Vegetable Garden
A checklist of October garden jobs for the vegetable garden including seeds to sow, crops to harvest, and fall garden projects. Also includes advice on composting, seed saving, and what to do with green tomatoes.
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As the nights draw in and temperatures drop, it can be tempting to curl up inside and forget our gardens. But there are plenty of October garden jobs to be done to prepare for the year ahead. The work we do in our gardens now is essential to keep us harvesting throughout winter, and looking forward to some early harvests next spring, during the hungry gap.
Here we will look at what you can do in your garden and vegetable patch in October, including what to sow, harvest, and some garden projects to keep you busy through the last golden days of autumn. Here are your garden jobs for this month:
October Garden Jobs Checklist
- Plant over-wintering onion sets
- Plant garlic
- Move tender plants indoors, or cover them with fleece or a cloche
- Collect seeds for next year
- Remove frost-damaged plants
- Take cuttings of woody herbs to propagate
- Harvest pumpkins once the stems have died back
- Harvest beans leaving some pods to dry out on the plant to save the seeds
- Cut blackberries and autumn raspberries back once they have finished fruiting
- Chop and drop asparagus fronds, leaving them as mulch for next year’s crop
Vegetable Seeds to Sow in the Fall
There are still many seeds that we can sow in October for crops through winter and into early spring. In Fall, we do not have the benefit of the warmth and light we have in spring, so anything we sow this time of year needs planting on time. It’s also important to sow seeds that are appropriate for your climatic zone, so make sure you know what zone you are in, and check the table below for the best seeds to sow this October. Most of Britain is in zones 7 – 9, with higher numbers being in warmer regions.
Some seeds can be direct sown outdoors, and some will need to be sown indoors. Bear in mind that seeds sown indoors will grow faster than seeds grown outdoors because they will benefit from the increased warmth.
Sow winter salads such as pak choi, mizuna, and lambs lettuce undercover. Spring cabbages and cauliflower can also be sown under cloches or protected with fleece. Try sowing broad beans and winter-hardy peas to get an early crop next year. Plant garlic now, too, especially hard-neck garlic. It needs to go through the process of vernalization, which will help the clove to form a bulb the following spring. We can also sow some types of onion sets and spring onion seeds in October for harvests in spring.
Seeds to Sow in October
These are the main seeds and sets to sow and plant in October. There’s also a full list of seeds to sow in Fall. When seed sowing in October, many seeds will benefit from being started undercover. The extra warmth inside a greenhouse or house can speed up their germination time.
|Zones 2-4||Garlic, Spring Cabbage, Spring Onions, Onions, Sweet Peas|
|Zone 5||Spring Cabbage, Garlic, Winter Purslane, Broad Beans, Spring Onions, Onions|
|Zone 6||Spring Cabbage, Garlic, Lambs Lettuce, Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Winter Purslane, Broad Beans|
|Zones 7-8||Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Winter Purslane, Broad Beans, Garlic, Onions, Lambs Lettuce, Spring Onion, Winter Hardy Peas|
|Zone 9||Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Coriander (indoors), Broad Beans, Garlic, Onions, Lambs Lettuce, Spring Onion, Winter Gem Lettuce, Winter Hardy Peas|
|Zone 10||Loose-leaf lettuce, Spring Cabbage, Pak Choi, Mizuna, Winter Purslane, Broad Beans, Garlic, Onions, Lambs Lettuce, Spring Onion, Winter Hardy Peas|
October Garden Jobs Begin with Compost
If you start to get frosts in October, your first job will be clearing away frost-damaged crops and plants. Add these to your compost heap to keep your vegetable patch tidy and ensure that you are not creating spaces for pests and diseases to hide during winter. Avoid cutting down brown seedheads and foliage in your borders, though. It can provide beautiful winter interest and help support your veg patch’s wildlife. You can always tackle this job in spring.
Compost can seem a daunting thing to make, and you may be unsure about where to start. While there are a few ways to make compost, including using bokashi, wormeries, and hot composting, I tend to use the easiest way to make compost. With that method, you have a lot more flexibility but if you are adding a lot of green material to your compost heap, try to balance it out with cardboard or wood chippings to help it stabilize and stop it from turning into green slime.
Aside from building new compost piles, October is also a good time to be adding muck and compost to your beds. Traditional gardeners will dig it in but if you use the easier no-dig method, just spread an inch or so on the surface of your weeded beds. Worms will bring it down into the soil for you!
Saving Seeds for Future Crops
Don’t forget to collect seeds in October for next year. Annual flowers, brassicas, and herb seeds are easy to harvest. All you need to do is remove the seed heads from plants and store them somewhere dry, away from rodents. One method you can use is to pop the seed heads into a brown paper bag labeled with the seeds inside. Pin or hang the bag from the ceiling in your garage or garden shed to dry. You can rub the seeds out when they’re bone dry and store them away in your seed collection for next year.
Though you’ll read that some seeds need a little more processing, that’s not always the case. For example, you’ll often see advice for fermenting tomato seeds before saving them. I’ve never done that and instead save tomato seeds on paper towels. If you save tomato seeds without fermenting, they grow just as well and save you an incredible amount of time and effort. They’re also easy to store!
Plant Garlic in October
If you want a great crop of garlic next year, it is essential to plant your garlic in Fall. Hard-neck garlic must spend a winter in the ground, exposed to the cold, to trigger the natural process of dividing and producing beautiful bulbs for us. It’s very cold-hardy and the type of garlic best suited for those who have cold, snowy winters.
Soft-neck garlic also benefits from being planted in October. The varieties in this group are less hardy than hard-neck and are better suited for autumn planting in places that don’t often drop below freezing. If you plant them in Fall, they’ll grow a bit and then go dormant over the winter. Come spring, they’ll shoot up and have a head start on garlic planted in spring.
Plant garlic in a sunny spot with well-drained soil, about 7-8 inches apart, with their tops about 5cm below the surface of the soil. I have more garlic growing tips if you want to learn more about this tasty crop.
More Garden Jobs for October
If you have any tender plants, now is the time to protect them. Get them resituated or covered now, and they’ll be protected from future frosts and wintery weather. You can either move them under cover into a greenhouse or cover them in situ with cloches or horticultural fleece. Tender dahlia tubers can either be lifted and stored in a cool, dry place until next spring or mulched to protect them from frost and waterlogging.
October is also a great time to take cuttings, especially woody herbs. Not all plants can be propagated from cuttings, but many can. That means you can use some of your existing plants to make more plants for free! In autumn, take 6” cuttings that are brown and woody at the bottom but fresh, green growth at the top. This way, they will contain plenty of growth hormones and should root easily. Grow them on as instructed for rooting rosemary cuttings.
Another important October garden job is to think about fruit trees and bushes. Buying and planting fruit trees and bushes is a cost-effective way of producing more food from your garden or allotment. If you can get them planted in autumn, they will have all winter to grow strong, healthy roots in time for spring. You can also order bare-root roses, trees, and shrubs, though they usually won’t arrive until later in the autumn and winter.
What to Harvest in October
October is a month of harvests, and sometimes it seems like we get more from our gardens this month than any other time of the year. It is a time of storing, preserving, and cooking, which is a fun reward for all your hard work during the summer. Though crops to harvest in October can vary from region to region, some of the top ones include:
- Autumn raspberries
October Harvesting & Preserving Ideas
Apples are in full swing in October. You are likely to see many windfalls this time of year, so now is the time to get harvesting. There are many fun things that we can do and make with apples like this beautiful apple pie recipe, cider, or even fruit wine.
Before they are affected by the frost, we should harvest all our tender fruits—tomatoes, chilies, peppers, cucumber, squashes, pumpkins, eggplant, and other exotics. These crops can live as perennials if you’re lucky enough to live with frost-free winters. If not, then they’ll perish with the first frosts.
There are plenty of uses for underripe crops, and it’s always better to harvest than to lose your beautiful produce to frost damage. Green tomatoes make a lovely chutney or relish, and green chilies can be pickled and saved for use throughout the year. You can also try ripening green tomatoes by putting them in a box or paper bag and setting them inside in a warm sunny spot.
Root vegetables to harvest include carrots, beets, and winter radishes. Get these lifted and stored in a frost-free place if you’re in an area that gets freezing winters. If not, you can store root vegetables in the ground.
Garden Projects for October
October is a great time to get stuck into some projects around your garden. If you do the work now, you will reap the rewards in spring! Making a bulb lasagne is one fun and easy activity that will reward you with plenty of spring color. By layering spring bulbs in a container, you can have a riot of color that last for months. All you need is some bulbs, some compost, and a container, and you will be amazed at the results.
Daffodils are a good option for spring bulbs, as are hyacinths, snowdrops, tulips, anenomes, and crocus. Also make sure to put your pots on pot feet or bricks so that they don’t freeze and crack over the winter.
Another project you can do in October is to start making leaf mold. Sweep up any fallen leaves and put them into a wire frame so that they have plenty of airflow. Put the frame in a sheltered area of your garden to ensure the leaves don’t get too wet. The pile will reduce significantly over winter, and in spring, you can use it as mulch for your beds or in homemade potting mixes.
October is also a great time to sort out your lawn. Rake through to clear the thatch and open up space for new grass growth. If you have any bare areas, you can sprinkle grass seed over them, and they’ll sprout and begin growing immediately. Grass clippings and thatch are great to add to the compost heap too.
More October Gardening Inspiration
Don’t forget to take time to rest, too. It’s been a busy year in the garden, so congratulate yourself on your successes and consider plans for next year. If you’re feeling full of energy and enthusiasm for the garden, though, here are some more things you could be doing in the garden this month.