OCTOBER is a great month for gardeners. Apart from this month being the last of the the year before winter it is the month when we celebrate Halloween.

With that comes the pumpkins which can be ripened in the garden.

It is important to keep a close watch on ripening pumpkins and support the biggest and roundest ones on a bed of straw to prevent the bottom rotting being damaged by it sitting on wet soil. Pumpkins are normally put outside a door and the inside carved out and lights put inside it.

The flesh can be scooped out and used to make a delicious pumpkin pie or used for other edible dishes.

Before the American fashion of using a pumpkin rocked up on this side of the Atlantic, in Scotland and indeed Ireland a turnip was used.

Well, although we all commonly called it turnip it was in fact a special member of the turnip family called a swede; much larger and the flesh was coloured orange.

This was a common vegetable to grow in the garden.

The inside could be scooped out and a space cut in the outside to resemble eyes, nose and mouth.

When the flesh was scooped out a candle could be inserted to give a light from inside.

Nowadays, we can use a tea-light rather than a candle.

Insert a wire through the side to make a carrying handle and everyone's ready for Halloween.

One important factor is that using both pumpkins and turnips mean that all the remnants of our ‘Trick or Treat’ festivities are biodegradable; there is not any residual material to cause damage to our planet or affect climate change.

Cacti and succulents

Last week members of the Gourock Horticultural Garden Group who hold garden talks at Cardwell Garden Centre had an excellent talk about cacti and succulents by Ewan Brown.

He discussed growing these plants from seed and the members were given lots of cuttings to take away with them to grow on in their own home.

Ewan was quite clear to inform the audience that these young plants should not be given any water from now until early spring, and when the young plants begin to show some signs of growth they can be given some water and then introduced to some light.

A look at some more herbs

One commonly used herb is the bay leaf which is actually better known as the sweet bay leaf.

It's a laurel-like shrub or small tree or bush and is not really too happy in the cold winter climate of the United Kingdom because the winds will burn some of the leaves.

It is best to buy a pot grown specimen and plant it in spring, growing it in a sheltered site away from eastern winds in soil or compost containing some lime while watering it regularly.

Pick some young leaves for culinary use and dry some at room temperature for winter use.

Bay leaves can be added to fish dishes and stews but do tear the edges beforehand and remove from the dish before serving

One word of warning.

Laurel leaves may look like bay leaves but do not on any account use them, as laurel leaves are poisonous.

Another two popular herbs are marjoram and oregano.

The usual type of herb which is grown in the garden is sweet marjoram, a bushy plant which is half hardy.

Sow seeds under glass in March.

Pot Marjoram is easy and you can buy a pot-growing plant in spring and grow it in a container in the same way as you would grow mint.

It is a dwarf shrub and is perennial.

Chopped marjoram is ideal for sprinkling over meat and poultry before roasting and can be added to soups and stuffing.

Another well-known herb, although it is not just thought of as a herb, is garlic.

It is grown from a bulb and consists of little pieces which can be planted into the soil or even grown in pots.

More akin to onions, garlic can be planted in early autumn or winter and is used to flavour food.

All you have to do is plant a few garlic bulbs and they will quickly root and will soon increase in size.

Garlic can be added to many dishes to enhance flavour and will keep many common garden pests at bay.

Plant a few garlic bulbs now, which you can obtain at most garden centres.

Autumn around the garden

As the autumn leaves fall from the trees make a point of collecting them together and put them into black bin bags and tie the necks of the bags tightly before making a few holes in the sides of the bags, which can then be stored out of sight behind a shed or garage for a couple of years to form useful leafmould to use in the garden.

Keep planting spring bulbs - with the exception of Tulips.

Plant daffodils, both tall growing types and the shorter growing rockery bulbs such as tete-a-tete, and jet-fire.

Garden hyacinths, grape hyacinths and crocus bulbs can be planted as can allium bulbs.

Do not forget our feathered friends.

Fill bird feeders with fat balls and leave out clean water daily for the birds.

Fill a bird bath for them - it is amazing just how birds will come and visit your garden regularly each day.

I’m sure you will enjoy watching the antics of these little garden birds on their daily visits.

Try not to walk on the lawn when it is frosted over, otherwise you will damage the grass.

Make a point of watching or listening to the weather forecast each evening.

If frost is forecast then cover plants in the greenhouse with garden fleece or old newspaper but remove in the morning.

Turn off your water supply at the tap abut take care to drain all the water out of your hose.