- October is the perfect time to feed your lawn – lawns really need feeding because turfgrasses are NOT self-sustaining plants. Without added Nitrogen they get thin and weedy, and erosion follows. And now’s the best time to feed them – much better than spring (despite what the commercials on TV tell you!) It’s the best time for your lawn AND for protecting the Bay. Click here for details.
- From now until October 15th or so is also the best time to plant grass seed. Click here details about starting a new lawn.
- Is your lawn thin and weedy? Then overseed it early this month – also, before the 15th is best. Click here for details.
- Got bare spots? Now’s the time to fill then in. Click here for details.
- Plant lettuce, spinach, radishes and corn salad through the middle of the month. Protect with row covers or a cold frame.
- Carrots, turnips and parsnips can be over-wintered by covering the bed with a deep straw or leaf mulch. Harvest, as needed.
- Continue to dig potatoes and to harvest pumpkins and winter squashes.
- Gourds should be harvested after a hard frost.
- Cover crops of oats, winter rye, winter wheat and crimson clover can be sown through the middle of October. Seeds should be in close contact with soil to promote germination. Cover crops protect the soil, conserve soil nutrients and add organic matter and nutrients when tilled in in the spring. Cover crops can also be sown in walkways between beds.
- Small herb plants (like parsley, chives and garlic) can be potted up (in a soil-less mix) and brought indoors for winter use. A sunny window or cool, white fluorescent lights will help keep them productive. Keep them away from excessive heat or drafts, and turn down the thermostat at night.
- Build new garden beds by sheet mulching: cut grass low, cover with sections of newspaper, then with layers of organic matter, such as compost, leaves, garden clippings, kitchen scraps; top with a thick layer of straw or other mulch.
TREES AND SHRUBS
- It’s peak planting time, right up until the ground freezes. (Why? They’re beginning to go dormant for the winter, so planting them now causes very little stress to the plants. And since they will have been in the ground over the winter, their roots will grow more vigorously in the spring. Also, you will not have to worry so much about watering them as often, once they have lost their leaves.)
- It’s also a good month for moving deciduous trees and shrubs; for evergreens it’s best to wait til spring if you can.
- If October is dry, give your shrubs and trees a good soaking. Evergreens are particularly vulnerable to drying out over the winter, so don’t forget them.
- Speaking of evergreens, don’t panic if you see some browning or yellowing of the needles this time of year – that’s normal.
- DON’T PRUNE this month, except to remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood. Pruning any more than that will encourage new growth that could first frost; anyway, the plant’s energies need to go to root development, not new leaves and branches.
- Feed with a slow-release fertilizer like Holly-tone to boost root growth over the next few weeks – more roots support more shoots, and shoots bring flowers and fruit!
- Plants that are susceptible to breakage can be protected with Shrub Guard plant protector wrap – and get it in place this month before the snows come.
PERENNIALS and BORDERS
- October’s still a great time to buy and plant, divide, or just move perennials.
- Cut back any foliage that looks gross (diseased) after a tough summer. No need to apply a pesticide; simply cut off bad-looking foliage and you may even get a few move flowers out it and cleaner looking plant.
- Many perennial flowers can be left standing until winter, to feed wildlife. Other perennials you might want to leave standing IF you want them to self-seed and produce a larger mass for next year. (That goes for self-seeding annuals like nicotiana and alyssum, too.) DO clean up pretty carefully around roses, peonies, phlox and monarda – the plants that are most vulnerable to fungal disease – to reduce the chances of that happening.
- With our ground as wet as it it, hold off on applying mulch for now, except around newly planted items.
- Got moles or voles? Use Espoma Soil Perfector now, as voles and moles are very active now until early spring.
- You can protect your mums and asters from early killing frosts and keep them blooming a few extra weeks by covering them with a sheet on those early cold nights. (Just don’t use plastic for the job.)
- Time to plant your spring-blooming bulbs – tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, anemone and crocus, to name a few. If you can’t get them all in the ground this month, tulips CAN be planted in November with good results – as long as the ground hasn’t frozen, of course. For best results, add bone meal or a bulb fertilizer like Bulb-Tone into the planting hole as you prepare the soil.
- In choosing and planting your bulbs, it’s best to plant in drifts, rather than tiny groups of just one to three.
- Got deer? Plant daffodils, hyacinths, fritillaria, scilla, muscari, galanthus and ornamental allium for best results. Deer love tulips and crocus, so avoid them.
- Gladiola, dahlias, cannas, elephant ears and other tender bulbs should be dug up before the ground freezes and stored in a cool dark area. Just wait til frost blackens the foliage, then cut back the tops to 6 inches and dig carefully. Next, brush or wash off soil and let dry for two weeks to cure. Store in boxes or potted filled with peat moss or bark chips in a dry place like an unheated basement or crawl space around 40-50 degrees.
- If you need to move your autumn-flowering crocus, do it now – after they flower.
HOUSEPLANTS, TENDER PLANTS
- Take cuttings from tender plants like coleus if you want to have them again next year.
- It’s not too early to pot up some paperwhites, then keep doing it every 2-3 weeks for a continuing, winter-long indoor show (and scent).
- Bring your outdoor houseplants back inside this month, but if they need repotting, do it first. If they can wait til spring, that’s also a good time to repot.
- Because houseplants are prone to get whiteflys, spray with Neem insecticide or horticultural oil now, then check periodically.
- Watch your indoor gardenias closely for spider mites.
- Whatever tropicals you have inside, reduce the amount of fertilizer to twice a month and even half the normal dose. For gardenias use Mir Acid Miracle Gro because they’re acid-loving plants
- October is the time to put your pond away for the winter – which our aquatics expert Bill Watts explains - click here for details.
- If you’re a bird-lover, now’s a fine time to start providing food and water for them. Click here for details about providing for birds in winter.
- Time to bring your hummingbird feeders indoors and give them a good cleaning.