COLUMN: Time to prepare the garden for winter by Sara Milne

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October heralds the start of autumn and the start of the big garden tidy up getting plants and containers ready for winter.

If it’s autumn colour you are after, conifers can provide fabulous splashes of orange, blue or purple at this time of year and October is the best month to plant them along with other trees and 
shrubs.

Gardening myth of the month is that you must use compost and fertiliser when planting new shrubs – but adding them to a planting hole isn’t necessary and, in some cases, 
can actually discourage a vigorous root system.

Nutrient-rich planting holes can give roots less incentive to branch out to absorb nutrients and moisture from the surrounding area.

If you’re concerned about soil fertility when planting trees or shrubs, you’re better off giving plants a nutrient boost by spreading a thin layer of compost and then a thin layer of mulch over the planting site.

Just be sure to leave a few inches of breathing room around each plant’s stem, especially when mulching 
trees.

National Conifer Week takes place during October – helping to highlight how hardy, easy to care for and long-lasting conifers are which means they are the ideal choice for the inexperienced gardener as a low maintenance but high impact plant.

Pruning is top of the list of garden ‘to dos’ this month.

Other top tips for October are:

- Plant spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths

- Prepare the ground for new fruit trees, nuts, vines, canes and 
bushes

- Dig over vacant areas of the vegetable plot, as the approaching cold weather may help to improve the soil structure

- Cut back perennials that have died down

- Leave some plant seed heads as food for the birds

- Clear up fallen autumn leaves regularly

- Move tender plants into the greenhouse or near to house walls for added warmth

- Plant out spring cabbages

- Harvest apples, pears, grapes and nuts

- Order seeds for next year