By Bob Morrison
Cooper-Young Garden Club
The motto for October (and all other fall months) should be “do everything possible this fall rather than putting it off until spring”. This is especially true of all planting, for there are few things that may not be planted just as well in the fall as in the spring.
“Fall is for Planting” – spring flowering bulbs, planting perennials and many trees and shrubs, new lawns with cool season grasses, such as bluegrass, turf type rye grasses, fine leaf fescue. It is also time to plant perennials, spring flowering bulbs, and many trees and shrubs.
Perennials – Plant daylilies early in the month. Plant Shasta daisies Siberian iris, peonies, and phlox.
Bulbs – after the soil has cooled plant chionodoxa (glory-of-the-snow), crocus, daffodil, scilla and other small bulbs of spring. Caution: do not plant lilies until mid-November; do not plant tulips before November 15, preferably December 1.
Get your tulip bulbs early and put them in a cool, dark place such as the hydrator in your refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. Tulip bulbs do much better in the Spring if they have experienced winterizing-like conditioning – even if it is in the fall.
Select spring flowering bulbs as soon as they arrive in the garden centers. This is a case when the early bird can get the worm. If you select your bulbs early, you will get the best.
When selecting bulbs from the open bins look for firm undamaged bulbs without any nicks, soft spots or mold.
Seed of hardy annuals, such as snapdragons, cornflower, coreopsis, California-poppies, and others can be sown outside this month.
Improve the drainage of clay soils by adding plenty of leaf mold, pea gravel or sand to the soil mix before filling in a planting hole.
This is a good time to cut flowers for drying. Good candidates for air drying include celosia, yarrow, statice, globe amaranth, strawflowers, goldenrod, and grasses.
Check needled evergreens for bagworms. Removing them now will prevent re-infestation next spring.
Fall-blooming perennials are always enjoyable. Make a list of those your friends and neighbors have and order them for October planting.
Siberian or Japanese irises can be divided in spring or fall when two months of temperatures below 90O F can be assured.
Move house plants indoors before temperatures drop below 45°F. Check for signs of insects and treat. Rinse off foliage, removed dead leaves and cut back long stems.
For instant color in your pots and flowerbeds, now is the best time to find the greatest selection of mums. Tip: chose plants that are fully budded but with just a few blooms open – they will last longer. Also remember to water your plants regularly to extend their blooms.
Do NOT fertilize or prune shrubs. Late season nitrogen or new growth can reduce winter hardiness as there is insufficient time to develop cold hardiness.
This is a good time to divide and replant daylilies, irises, and many other perennials.
Mid-October is a good time to divide hostas.
If some of your perennials did not grow well or bloom as well as usual, they may need to be divided. This is a good time to dig and divide daylilies, yarrow, phlox, Rudbeckia, and others.
In late October you can start replacing spent annuals with winter hardy pansies and ornamental cabbage.
Vegetables & Herbs
Pot up herbs and take inside.
Start window boxes of herb such as basil, chives and parsley. Leaf lettuce and cherry tomatoes can also be grown indoors for winter harvest.
It is easy to let down your guard on pest control – do not. If you want to keep tomatoes and cucumbers producing until frost, keep up the fungicide and insecticide sprays.
Tend to the strawberry bed. Remove weeds and fertilize as the plants are forming next spring’s flower buds now. Also, water if October rains are lacking.
It may seem warm for planting fall vegetables early in the month; however, October is actually a bit later than optimal for planting most fall crops. Give yourself until mid-month to plant things like spinach, most cabbages, collards and other leafy greens. Radishes will also do well as they are ready to harvest in only about thirty days.
Fall is the time to core aerate the lawn. Aerate before fertilizing or reseeding.
This is the time to reseed bare spots in fescue and bluegrass lawns.
Use slow-release fertilizers on fescue and bluegrass lawns to reduce risk of nutrient run-off. Grass roots continue to grow until soil temperature falls below 40OF (early December usually).
You may want to stop dead-heading coneflowers, sun flowers, and Black-eyed Susan in order to leave the seed heads for the birds to enjoy.
Don’t take down hummingbird feeders down when the resident birds disappear. There may be millions of other humming birds north of your backyard that will be passing through and will stop to recharge. Leave them up until at least November 1st for the stragglers.
House plants – move house plants indoors when the outside night temperatures are similar to your indoor night temperatures so as to minimize the shock…certainly before temperatures drop below 50º F.
House-bound plants – start checking plants bound for indoors for signs of insects so they can be treated a few times before moving back indoors. While you are at it, give the plants a good bath with the garden hose, remove dead leaves and cut back long stems.
Pull and trash any annual weeds, such as ragweed, nut sedge, creeping charlie, foxtail, or crab grass that went to seed in some neglected corner. These seeds live for years if allowed to reach the soil and get spaded under. Do not put into a compost pile.
Fall is a good time to start a new compost pile. You can build a compost bin or simply pile all that yard waste in a corner.