The Gardener's October Calendar


The season has definitely flown by, and now it's time to clean up after the party! While I'm only recently accepting that summer has come to an end and that fall is here, I am slowly warming up to hot apple cider, apple picking and fall decorating. There are only two categories this month instead of the normal three — because let's face it, we're busy!

Here are some attainable garden chores to get you through the month.



  • Plant garlic! — For instructions, click here. If you saved your own garlic, replant the biggest cloves. Usually I try to get mine in the ground (in Connecticut) beginning Columbus Day weekend or a little thereafter. This gives the garlic time to start growing before winter arrives. When planting garlic, plan to feed it with organic fertilizer and mulch it with straw. Of course, starting with good quality garlic is key. Do not use the garlic sold in grocery stores, which is usually sprayed with a growth inhibitor to prevent sprouting.  There are lots of good places to buy garlic. Locally I am lucky to have an organic nursery which sells it, but I have also ordered from High Mowing Organic Seeds and Hudson Valley Seed Library in the past and had success.
  • Harvest pears — Have you harvested your Kieffer pears? The stem is the key to the ripened fruit! Watch my quick tutorial below to know when pears are ready for picking. And after they have been picked, what will you make with them? How about pear pie, my original honey pear baklava, pear cranberry crisp, or spiced pear jam?


  • Bulb time — Start planting spring-blooming bulbs now. Use the photographs you took in the spring to figure out which areas of the garden need early color. (You did take photos, right?) There is still time to place orders, but choices might start to get limited as the season progresses. 
  • Continue lawn renovation and get your soil tested. I have a portion in the back garden that I am trying to decide what to do with, and I sent my soil out for testing to help me decide. Learn more about why soil tests are the key to unlocking a great garden
  • Garden cleanup — Clean up portions of the garden that you won't be leaving to wildlife over the winter. What stays? Echinacea, for birds, mostly! What goes? I cut down bee balm and feverfew. I trim back irises and daylilies: one reason is so they look neater and the second reason is that there's less of a temptation for the iris borer to be attracted to and eat my irises. Fall-blooming anemones can be cut back, too, unless you want them to spread by seed. For more ideas, read this story I wrote for the blog that features tips from a master gardener.
  • Keep an eye on the weather  Mainly watch the overnight temperatures. It's time to find spots for all of the plants you plan to bring inside for the winter. For me, that includes tropicals, like hibiscus, orchids and crotons, as well as cuttings of coleus and geraniums that I want to make into new plants for next year.
  • Keep planting! Add fall-blooming asters and perennial mums to the garden. (NOT the hot-house ones! They won't survive the winter!) You can even add grasses, too. I really like the Global Warming series of mums because they bloom so much later than everything else — sometimes as late as Halloween! (Which makes waiting around all season for them to bloom worth it.)
  • Renovate! — Now is the perfect time to move plants in the garden or create new beds and paths. Keep the momentum going and start planning for next year's garden.  You can divide any spring-blooming perennials now. 
  • Keep watering – Make sure you keep watering evergreens like rhododendrons to prevent drying out, which can be susceptible to cold winter temperatures. 
  • Fall decor — Add pumpkins to your landscape decorating. You can make a hot pepper mix to spray on pumpkins to keep the squirrels from nibbling on them. (That's usually what I have to do to keep them looking nice.) It washes off with rain though, so you might need to reapply multiple times. Here's a link that shares some possible combinations you can use.
  • Find a spot for winter tuber storage – If you live in an area where you need to lift dahlia and canna tubers, scout the area now. Basements or garages can work, as long as they stay in the 40-50 degree Fahrenheit range. For those who lack both, I have had success storing my dahlias in a cardboard box in my front hallway out of direct light. I mist them occasionally throughout the winter when they look a little shriveled. The trick is to not let them dry out completely but not let them rot either. You can harvest these tubers when the first frost kills the top portion of the plant. Dig them up, turn them upside down to help drain moisture from the tubers, and then store. 
  • Bring light to the night — Have a fire pit? We are now in the perfect time of year to use it at night. But make sure your property isn't too dry — and don't light a fire when it's windy. Fire pits should be at least 10 feet away from any buildings, and make sure you have water nearby — before you light the fire — that will be used to put it out. Make sure any dried leaves are removed from around the fire pit to prevent stray embers from catching ablaze. And keep the fire small. I usually leave the ashes and burned wood in the fire pit for several days before I remove it. Here are some ways the (cooled) ashes can be used in your garden.
What are you doing in your garden this month? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Comments

  1. I need to make myself save our Caladium tubers this year. The last time I tried they turned into a bag of mush. So you just keept them in the dark with no medium around them?

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    1. Hi Jason! I'm going to try to store these differently this year. I've recently learned that they need to be cured first before they are placed in storage. Garden Answer on YouTube just posted a great 3 minute how-to video. Good luck!

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