October Gardening Tips

Monthly task lists help to grow and maintain your gardens, indoors and out.

Scan these tips from gardening expert, Melinda Myers, and follow those that apply to your particular landscape to help increase your success while making gardening easier, less stressful and fun.

 • Cover groundcover plantings with netting as leaves begin to fall. Remove the leaf covered netting and compost the leaves. Recover the planting until the leaves have all dropped from the tree.

• After the leaves drop is a good time to fertilize trees and shrubs in need of a nutrient boost.

• Start installing animal protection now. Fencing, scare tactics and repellents or a combination of these can help protect your plants from hungry critters this winter.

 • Fall is a great time to remove buckthorn and honeysuckle shrubs from the landscape. These invasive plants crowd out natives and more desirable plants. Cut to ground level and treat stumps with an herbicide labeled for this purpose.

• Dig and divide peonies you want to move, after the leaves have been killed by the frost. Cut the roots into smaller clumps making sure each section has at least 3 to 5 eyes (buds). Replant the divisions in properly prepared soil. Make sure the eyes are no more than 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface.

• Leave asparagus stems and leaves intact for winter. These help catch the snow that makes a great winter mulch.

• Pick any remaining tomatoes including mature green tomatoes before the first killing frost. Those tomatoes with the blossom end greenish white or showing color can be ripened indoors.

• Harvest grapes when the fruit is sweet and juicy. Harvest and taste one grape from the tip of the bunch. If it tastes ripe it is time to harvest the bunch.

• Keep planting spring flowering bulbs until the ground freezes.

• Shred and dig fallen leaves into annual flower and vegetable gardens once the frost has ended the season. The shredded leaves will break down over winter adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

• Extend the harvest season with the help of floating row covers such as Harvest Guard or ReeMay. These fabrics allow air, light and water through while protecting plants down to about 24 degrees. Loosely drape the fabric over the plants and anchor the edges with boards, stones or other items. Leave the fabric in place until you are done harvesting or plants are killed by winter temperatures.

• Move Rosemary, bay and other non-hardy herbs indoors for the winter. Place in a bright sunny window or under artificial lights. Keep the soil slightly moist but not too wet.

• Fertilize your lawn one last time this season. Make this last application sometime between late October and Thanksgiving and before the ground freezes.

• Shred fall leaves with your mower and leave them on the lawn. As long as you can see the grass through the leaf pieces the lawn will be fine. The shredded leaves will break down adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil below.

• Clean up and remove any diseased or insect-infested perennials. Leave healthy plants stand for winter. The plant stems, dried foliage and seedpods add winter interest while providing shelter for beneficial insects and food for the birds.

• Wait for a week of freezing temperature before you start protecting grafted and less hardy roses for winter. Move roses growing in containers into an unheated garage for winter. Be sure to water whenever the soil is thawed and dry.

• Fall cleanup is the best way to reduce and even eliminate many future pest problems on trees and shrubs. Rake and destroy any diseased leaves. Prune out and destroy cankered or discolored diseased stems. Disinfect tools between cuts.

• October is a great time to plant most trees and shrubs. The soil is warm and air is cool reducing the risk of transplant shock. Be sure to water thoroughly and as needed until the ground freezes.

• Blow or rake fallen leaves off groundcover plantings. The large leaves trap moisture. Block sunlight and lead ot crown rot and other diseases. Or cover plantings with netting to catch the leaves. Remove the leaf covered netting and compost the collected leaves. Repeat as needed throughout the fall.