By Rachel Crow
When it comes to deciding what to plant in October, consider that this is the best time to be planning ahead for next year.
Fall is not generally thought of as growing season, but there is still lots of choice on what you can plant in readiness for spring, including hardy veg, bare root fruit trees, shrubs and spring blooms.
If you plan well now, you will be rewarded with a garden that bursts into color and life after a cold, dark winter, and a vegetable plot producing a long-lasting harvest.
So include some of the following garden ideas when planning a kitchen garden or dreaming of your garden's spring flower beds.
What to plant in October – veg crops to sow now
By planting some vegetables in fall, they will have time to establish over winter and will therefore produce a crop earlier than vegetables that are planted in the spring.
This is a good way to ensure a succession of crops to see you through a large part of the year.
There are many options for what to plant in October for an early summer harvest.
For the earliest onions to harvest next year, plant out sets of over-wintering varieties. Easy to grow, these stalwarts of the cook's larder can be used in a huge variety of dishes and cuisines, so should be top of any list of vegetable garden ideas.
'Plant onion sets now for the best sized bulbs next year,' advises gardening expert Sarah Raven.
Onions love fertile soil and full sun, so identify the ideal spot in your back yard and then make sure you're armed with all the knowledge you need for how to grow onions.
'Early-maturing varieties of peas can be sown outside now, but cover emerging seedlings with cloches to protect from then from the birds,' advises Sarah Raven.
These climbing plants are ideal for small vegetable garden ideas as they don't take up a lot of ground space. 'Support shorter peas on small stakes or a pea fence. Taller peas can be supported with a tower or trellis netting,' advise the experts at Burpee .
Once you have mastered how to grow peas, you will be rewarded with a generous yield of the sweetest crop, as the more you pick them, the more they produce.
3. Fava beans – or broad beans
While the soil is still warm, the milder weather will encourage quick germination of vegetable seeds, and the soil is generally easier to keep moist at this time of year, too.
Fava bean, or broad bean 'Aquadulce Claudia' is one of the best varieties for planting in fall, overwintering on the plot for an early spring harvest, advise the experts at Thompson & Morgan.
Try companion planting – broad beans planted with summer savory will help repel the beans' common pest of black bean aphids, they add.
A hardy member of the legume family, fava beans have an amazing capacity to survive winter weather and are able to germinate at just 36°F (2°C). Learn how to grow fava beans and enjoy your homegrown crop of beans freshly shelled from their pods.
Flowers to plant in October
You want to get spring bulbs in the ground before the ground freezes, which can be from October to mid-December, depending on where you live. Hardy annuals should be another on the list for what to plant in October.
1. Sweet peas
These beautifully fragrant, colorful flowers with their delicate frilly blooms make excellent cottage garden plants.
'By sowing sweet peas in October, you will have bigger plants with a stronger root system that should give flowers next spring earlier and last longer,' explains gardening guru Monty Don in his monthly tips and advice.
You will, however, need to protect the young plants over winter if the weather is bad. Monty advises that he sows some in October and another round in February, 'to spread the risk.'
Sow the sweet peas in small pots and place them in a cold frame over winter for planting out in the spring. 'They only need protection from hard frosts, mice and becoming sodden, so do not provide any extra heat,' Monty adds.
Our advice on how to grow sweet peas will ensure yours are bursting with blooms.
Plant crocus bulbs now for a glorious spring display. Plant them in clusters, dotted through borders, or you can even naturalise them in grass for a woodland effect.
Crocuses can start blooming during winter, even when there is snow on the ground. What's more, once planted in your garden, they can naturalize and spread, coming back year after year to fill your late winter and early spring garden with color, requiring very little input and maintenance from you.
Wildflowers will not only add a varied and vibrant palette of flowers to your garden, but are also excellent for nature providing bees, butterflies and other essential pollinators with vital food.
Planting wildflowers is one of many wildlife garden ideas, and fall is the best time to sow wildflower seeds, as this will give the earliest display of blooms.
Poor soil conditions are the best for growing wildflowers – so no need to enrich the soil before you scatter. Clear an area to give the wildflowers the best chance of germination and sow the seeds generously over the area.
You could even create a little wildflower meadow area in your back yard. 'It will then gradually just self-sow from one year to the next and you’ll get more and more and more flowering,' advises Sarah Raven.
Shrubs to plant in October
October is a good time to plant shrubs because the cooler temperatures of fall aren’t as stressful on plants.
When the air temperature is cool but the soil still retains some warmth, plants are encouraged to put out root growth.
The colorful and fragrant blooms of lilac are a joyful sign of spring. There are many varieties and cultivars available, producing panicles of flowers in shades of white, purple and pink.
The best time to plant these deciduous shrubs is in fall, before the ground freezes. They love a sunny spot, in moist, well-drained soil that is slightly alkaline.
Once you have enjoyed the first spring of your shrub's blooms, be sure to know how to prune lilac to keep it looking its best, year after year.
Producing cheery yellow flowers on its arching branches, the perennial Forsythia is one of the first bushes to bloom in spring and looks fantastic in borders.
'Forsythia is an easy to grow shrub, which is easy to prune and will last for many years,' explain the experts at Thompson & Morgan.
October is the perfect time to plant this shrub, so long as the soil isn't frozen, too wet or too dry.
Forsythia blooms best in full sun, and likes moist, fertile soil, so add in some compost before planting if required.
Available as either evergreen or deciduous varieties, viburnums are easy to grow shrubs that produce white or pink blooms in early spring.
Plant outside in October, and although viburnum are tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions, they will thrive in an open sunny position, in any good, well drained soil.
'Most viburnum will grow in full sun or part shade. For best flowering provide at least 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight or all-day lightly filtered sun,' explain the experts at Wilson Bros Gardens.
Fruit trees to plant in October
An excellent choice for what to plant in October is bare root fruit trees.
Fall is the ideal season to plant many bare root fruit trees - which is when deciduous plants are lifted from the ground while they are leafless and dormant with no soil around their roots.
Once they are planted the trees put all of their energy into establishing the roots below ground, so that once spring arrives, they are ready to burst into life and growth.
The bonus of planting bare root is that is it generally cheaper than buying potted plants. Added to which you can tick the environmental box as there is less use of plastic with no need for a pot.
Who doesn't love a deliciously sweet and plump blackberry? And with your own blackberry tree in the back yard you can have a harvest close at hand for any snacking, dessert or preserving plans.
'You will have a wider range of cultivars and rootstocks to select from with bare root fruit trees. They will also establish better,' explains gardening expert Leigh Clapp.
Plant bare root blackberry trees as soon as possible after receiving them, soaking the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours before planting.
It is important to thoroughly water the new tree. 'One of the biggest issues facing a transplanted fruit tree’s establishment is access to water for the tree to effectively carry on growing. Pot grown trees are grown in compost, which is very different to soil in terms of water retention; once planted in soil there will be a barrier where the roots will face different conditions,’ explains Nursery Manager, Karim Habibi, of specialist fruit tree nursery, Keepers.
Apple trees are among the easiest fruit tree to grow and with so many varieties and cultivars available – from cooking apples to eating, sweet to sharp – you will be truly spoilt for choice.
'Whatever your choice of bare root apple tree, know the size of the plant at maturity to ensure you allow enough space in your chosen location for growth and maintenance needs, such as pruning an apple tree,' advises Leigh Clapp.
Bare root apple trees should be planted from late fall. Dig a hole no deeper than the roots, but spread the roots out on the ground and make the hole three times diameter of the spread of the roots to allow them to establish well.
It's not too late to plant out strawberry runners if you get them in towards the beginning of October.
Before planting them in the ground, dig in some good fork fulls of well-rotted manure or compost. Make sure the crown of the plant sits on the surface as if is is planted too deep it is prone to rot.
There are a number of methods for how to grow strawberries but with patience and care, you can enjoy your own homegrown offerings of this popular fruit.
This feature was created by H&G sister brand, Period Living magazine
Period Living is the UK's best-selling period homes magazine. A subscription provides you with all you need to know about caring for and improving a traditional house and garden
I am the Content Editor on Homes & Garden's sister magazine, Period Living Magazine. I joined the team nine years ago, after freelancing for years on a range of titles, covering everything from homes and gardens, to history, arts and crafts. I have the joy of covering all of these areas of interest still - handily packaged together in the pages of Period Living Magazine and for the Country Channel of Homes & Gardens.
I love discovering how passionate gardeners have transformed often previously neglected plots into beautiful spaces brimming with blooms for our real garden stories; I feel privileged to meet and interview many artisans and craftspeople creating unique homeware, sharing their stories and the skills of their traditional crafts; and I find uncovering the background stories of historic properties and antiques endlessly fascinating.
Designer Profile: Cortney Bishop
Strong architectural features, relaxed elegance and a bohemian undercurrent are the hallmarks of Cortney Bishop’s life-enhancing approach to interior design
By Kerryn Harper-Cuss •
Home office desk ideas – 10 stylish choices for a home workstation
Discover home office desk ideas that will make your working and organizing space supremely chic
By Sarah Warwick •
How to prune roses – including climbing roses and rose bushes
Learn how to prune roses to increase flower production and get the best out of these much-loved plants
By Melanie Griffiths •
How to prune hydrangeas – including when to deadhead and cut back
Learn how to prune hydrangeas for healthier and happier plants with more blooms
By Rachel Crow •
What to plant in September – the best flowers and vegetables to grow this month
Here's what to plant in September for fall color, planning ahead for spring displays, and for harvests of tasty veg, salads and herbs
By Rachel Crow •
How to prune tomato plants – and the best time of year to do it
Find out how to prune tomato plants for a maximum yield of this homegrown crop
By Rachel Crow •
How to prune a fig tree – everything you need to know
Ensure your fig tree is hearty and healthy by learning how to prune a fig tree
By Holly Reaney •
How to grow cantaloupe – juicy, fragrant melons more than worth the effort
Growing cantaloupe melon is easy, but you need warm soil and sunny days. In cooler climates, try growing them under glass
By Karen Darlow •
How to grow potatoes in a container
Find out how to grow potatoes in a container with our helpful guide
By Holly Reaney •
How to grow fennel – as a herb or vegetable
Discover how to grow fennel in all its delicious forms, for a most versatile crop that's ready in just 12 weeks
By Melanie Griffiths •