Gardening Notes For October

October marks the true start of autumn and much work for the gardener!  We are now racing against time to complete our chores before that first strong frost.  It has been drier than usual over the past 2 months, so remember to irrigate new plantings.  Also, remember to take a moment and make some notes about your garden.  Among other details, we should be taking note of what annuals are still looking respectable, which late season vegetables lived up to expectations, and perhaps what woody plants or perennials should be added to enhance the autumn garden for next year!  

Things to do:

  • Finish ordering and start planting spring flowering bulbs. 
  • Prepare tuberous rooted plants for winter.   Those such as Alocasia, Colocasia, Dahlia, Canna, and Musa (Banana), which have a storage-type of root system can be dug, wrapped in newspaper, and stored in a cool (50-55°F), dry basement.  
  • Early October is the last chance to take and root cuttings of tender plants, such as Plectranthus, Coleus, and Geraniums.  Other plants that are not of hybrid origin can be overwintered by collecting the seed and stored in the lettuce draw of the refrigerator.  Various species of Solanum, Asclepias and Amaranthus are ideal for overwintering in this manner
  • Container care.  Bring in, empty and clean any valuable containers to prevent damage from freeze-thaw cycles of winter.  Wash clay containers inside and out to remove salts from fertilizers.  For plastic and other weather resistant containers, add annuals that are more tolerant of frost for autumn color, such as Chrysanthemums, Ornamental Cabbage, Kale or even Red Stemmed Willows!
  • Keep those lawn mower blades sharp!  If the fallen leaves are not too thick, shred them weekly with the lawnmower and use them as mulch for your flowerbeds.  The finer pieces that remain behind on the turf actually help improve your lawn.
  • Early October is still ok for over seeding bare spots in the lawn.
  • Remove annuals that appear tired or are frosted.  They can be replaced with an attractive bed of pansies.  During the winter, lightly mulch the pansies with straw as they will make a great show come spring.
  • Plant deciduous trees and shrubs.  The soil is still warm, and most species will produce roots into December, better preparing them for the stress of next summer.  Evergreens can still be planted, but the later they are installed during the month, the less of a root system that is produced and the more likely they are to desiccate in the winter winds.
  • For the vegetable garden, it is time to harvest potatoes and winter squash. Carrots, radish, chard, parsley and other cool season crops can be harvested as needed.  Garlic should be planted by mid-October and mulched with salt hay.  Areas of the garden that are bare can be mulched with compost, manure (fresh or composted) or seeded with winter rye, barley, clover or other cover crops.  The cover crop is turned into the soil early the following spring and provides a great source of organic matter.
  • Remove the foliage of perennials as they collapse with frost, since it eliminates surfaces for slugs and insects such as Iris Borer to lay their eggs, helps reduce fungal disease for next year and eliminates winter cover for mice, moles and voles!
  • Evaluate Oaks for Bacterial Lear Scorch.  If the leaves have turned brown in August and September, have an arborist evaluate the trees for spring treatments.
  • Continue to water new plantings should rainfall be scarce.  Although if feels as if the growing season is over, plants are still transpiring and in need of water!