Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

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. 

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) in mid-October. 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.  

  • 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 baklavapear 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. The second reason, for the irises, is that there's less of a temptation for the iris borer to be attracted to the leaves and eat my irises. Fall-blooming anemones can be deadheaded too, unless you want them to spread by seed. For more ideas, read this previous story featuring 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 (4.4-10 degrees Celsius) range. For those who lack both, I have had success storing my dahlias both in a cardboard box in my front hallway out of direct light, as well as a plastic bin with vermiculite (with the lid ajar for most of the off season). 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!

I garden in Zone 6b in Central Connecticut. 

Originally posted on Oct. 6, 2020. Edited and republished on Oct. 6, 2021.

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