October Garden Tasks and Planting

Written by Hannah Miller and reviewed by horticulturist Elizabeth Smith. Published to Blog on the 2nd October 2021.

We independently research, combine and grow plants in our gardens. If you buy something via links, we may earn a commission. Explore our editorial process.

Hello, my name is Hannah Miller, and I’m the co-owner and contributor here at DIY Gardening.

October is here, and so is the rain!

Some of the plants in the garden are looking past their peak, while others still have a few more weeks of colour and growth.

October needn’t be a dull month; there’s plenty of warmth in the soil, the rain and moisture will give the lawn a boost and depending on where you live in the country, the first hard frost could be some time away.

October is, however, the perfect time to start thinking about bulbs, winter flowering plants and some general garden maintenance.

Hannah Miller

Hannah Miller

Bulb Planting in October


In my previous blog post, I discussed the best time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, and there are plenty you can put down in October, especially if you live in cooler parts of the UK.

Check any bulbs you lifted this year for damage or signs of disease and discard them.

Daffodils and alliums can start to go in from October, while you may want to hold back until November for the tulips, especially if the month is very wet.

Hanging Baskets and Containers

Flowers in a hanging basket

Plants grown in hanging baskets and containers may start to look sparse and leggy by October, depending on how long they’ve been growing and how well they’ve been maintained during the summer.

Now would be a good time to trim back any leggy, wilted growth and see if the plants can thrust out some final growth before the temperature drops too low.

For plants in baskets and containers past their peak, consider removing them and getting some winter-flowering plants such as pansies in.

Small spring-flowering bulbs such as crocuses can also go into pots, containers and even baskets soon, ideally with a fresh layer of compost.

Don’t forget that ivy trails look great from hanging baskets and pots as they add plenty of winter interest, so split any existing ones you have to create new plants or buy new ones from the garden centre. Ivy is cheap, readily available and easy to break apart into several plants.

Winter heather can add a splash of colour to any part of the garden so freshen up your bare borders or fill pots and containers. Heather is versatile and often overlooked plant, give it a try.

Continue Deadheading and Selectively Pruning

Dahlias that need pruning in October

While many plants start to shut down in October, the blooms of others can be prolonged with deadheading and pruning.

Dahlias often produce delightful flowers right up to the first frost, so keep deadheading the old blooms and trimming off buds selectively, so the plant’s energy is diverted to the best flowers.

More tips on selectively pruning dahlias can be found in this article but don’t forget that dahlias have fragile stems and are more likely to be damaged by the wind in October, so get some solid stakes in the ground to protect them.

Busy Lizzies often flower all the way through autumn but can look leggy, so give them and other tender annuals a trim to tidy them up and encourage new blooms.

If you want to aggressively prune Hydrangea Macrophylla to reduce its size, do so before it sets buds for next season otherwise it won’t flower (more on how and when to prune hydrangeas here).

Lawn Maintenance

Our lawn in autumn

Autumn is the perfect time to overseed lawns, lay turf or even start anew from seed.

The ground is still warm, there’s plenty of sunlight, and in October, there’s usually enough rain and moisture as well, so you won’t need to worry about the ground drying out.

If your lawn is still suffering from the excesses of summer, get a good quality autumn lawn feed down and overseed to improve density.

Lawn mushrooms often pop up in October, but the best thing you can do is leave them alone as they don’t cause any harm, or get a good pair of rubber gloves and pick them up and compost them if you don’t like the look of them.

Lawns weeds grow and spread much faster in spring and autumn compared to summer and winter as they thrive in warm, wet soil. Consider a good lawn weed killer treatment to kill them off before they set seeds.

The weather in October is also perfect for moss to spread in lawns. There are several treatment methods; one involves a bacteria that consumes the moss while another involves iron sulphate, both are effective at killing and controlling lawn moss. Our guide to the best lawn moss treatments is worth a read if you’re struggling with lawn moss.

Other Tasks

Garden tools on rack

Other tasks for October include:

  • Keep roof gutters and ground drains free of leaves.
  • Keep boxes and old newspapers etc. for overwintering bulbs.
  • Raise containers off the ground with feet to protect them from winter frost damage.
  • Buy mulch or other material to insulate half-hardy bulbs left in the ground.
  • If you don’t use your composter during the winter because it’s so cold and rarely works, empty it out for the season.
  • Turn over the soil in flowerbeds, remove any weeds.

First and Last Frost Date Calculator:

Knowing when the first and last frost dates are expected for your area can help with bulb and tuber planting/lifting as well as general gardening tasks and thankfully, there are online calculators that can help.

This website is a little dated but you can select your nearest city and it will tell you the first and last frost dates.

Meet The Author: Hannah Miller

Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen gardener with a horticulture qualification who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.

She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.

This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.

More About Hannah Miller

Explore Hannah's Corner

Hannah Miller

Find out more about the team behind DIY Gardening

About Us

Hannah Miller
Danny Woodley