Be an October Gardener! These October garden tasks will get you outside and enrich your landscape: sowing late-season crops, preventing damage, mulching, feeding perennials, clearing debris, starting a compost pile, preparing a new vegetable garden or planting for spring bloom. The following are roughly divided by types of plantings: Lawns, Flowers & Vegetables, or Trees & Shrubs. These are starter ideas.
• Test soil for acidity. Fall is a good time to incorporate limestone into soil.
• Aerate and dethatch lawns if needed, then apply fertilizer. In the absence of a soil test, fertilize with a nutrient ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (PsO5) and potassium (K2O) of 4-1-2 or 3-1-2 on new lawns
• For overseeded lawns, use a 1-1-1 type fertilizer ratio (19-19-19 or 10-10-10).
• Watch for first frost around October 5.
• Mow lawns at gradually lower heights until hard frost stops growth, usually by mid-November.
Flowers & Vegetables-
• Plant mums, ornamental cabbage and kale to fill in empty spaces in flower beds.
• Now’s the time to add daffodils, tulips, crocus and more spring-flowering bulbs to your garden beds. They will come and go before most of your perennials and brighten the early days of spring.
• Some annual flowers and sensitive vegetables or herbs can be protected from frosts. You can lay light sheets, reemay or blankets directly on plants–not plastic. Use frames or supports for plastic covers.
• Clear out any diseased plants or plant parts from around plants and bury.
• Sow spinach and leaf lettuce for fall harvest. Cover with row covers to hasten their growth. Apply a water soluble fertilizer to fall crops about a week after sowing.
• Plant garlic about 6 weeks before the ground freezes, generally by the end of October.
• Allow cleome, cosmos, dill and other annuals to self sow by spreading the seeds as you pull the plants.
• Collect ripened seed heads of coriander (cilantro), dill, arugula, and sunflower seeds for spring plantings.
• Keep some seedheads of sunflowers, thistle, aster or goldenrod in the garden to attract finches.
• Research has shown yarrow and comfrey to be very high in overwintering beneficial wasps underneath the plant’s leaves. Leave some of these herbs.
• Also pull some of your last broccoli or other cole crops and set along compost piles until May for overwintering habitat of beneficial insects. Compost next May.
• Prepare new flower beds and put vegetable beds to rest. Remove sod or weeds, add organic matter (manure or compost) and turn over the soil.
• Try Lasagna Gardening to start a new raised bed – especially on rocky soil. Alternate layers of “browns” such as fall leaves, shredded newspaper, peat, and pine needles with layers of “greens” such as vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and grass clippings. Make your “brown” layers about twice as deep as your “green” layers to get the best results. What you want at the end of your layering process is a two-foot tall layered bed. This will compost down to about 1 foot tall and be ready to plant in Spring!
• Bare ground attracts weed seeds so plant a cover crop of winter rye to till in come Spring. It will handle temperatures as low as -30◦ F.
• Begin a compost pile, roughly 3 feet x 3 feet. Don’t worry about pests yet. Just start with a 3-inch layer of small sticks; place a layer of green shoots from spent annuals and perennials of about 6 inches next; then a thick layer of dry fallen leaves or ripped newpaper of 6 inches thick; repeat the green and dry layers until you’ve reached a height of 3 feet. Continue to add material in the center of the pile by stirring the center to the side, forming a hole for the new material and burying it from the sides again. This stirring introduced oxygen and helps the material breakdown into usable compost.
Trees & Shrubs-
• Plan your plantings well considering average moisture, light, wind, and hazards (like driveways, salt trucks, snow piles).
• Rake up and bury scab-infected apples and crabapples.
• Water new plantings thoroughly to a depth of one inch once a week or (twice a week if dry) through November!
• Do not prune spring flowering shrubs now.
• Apply deer repellants to ornamental plants every 3 – 4 weeks depending on the repellant
• Wrap young trees to protect from small mammals that may gnaw bark under snow cover.
For more information on how to do any of the above, ask us at Ward’s for advice. You’ll enjoy the cooler weather and warm sunshine while you prepare for next year’s bounty.