October Gardening Chores

Fall is a good time to scope out where garden structures will add support for nearby growing plants. I can’t relocate or kill this wild grapevine so now up it goes! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Fall is a good time to scope out where garden structures will add support for nearby growing plants. I can’t relocate or kill this wild grapevine so now up it goes! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

October Gardening Chores

It’s going to seem odd but it is now time to start enjoying garden bounty. With the longest 2018 spring in Missouri recorded history, produce is appearing in my garden. Finally.

1. From cherry tomatoes, onions, a variety of herbs and a volunteer cantaloupe, I don’t have much to gather this year but I will enjoy what I have. Besides harvesting, this is the time to freeze extras for later use.

2. Pick herbs before they have flowered to capture the full flavor. I also wait until after they have flowered and cut the new herb sprouts to dry for later use. Except for basil. A little packrat took all of my basil drying in my garage. I caught and relocated the pack rat and am now waiting for more basil to grow.

3. Start pruning and checking for any hitchhikers on plants that are coming inside for winter. To cut down on leaf drop, bring plants in a month before turning on the heat, which is usually early October.

4. For single plants in separate pots, consider combining them, watering well and the bringing them inside. Even if they only last for a couple of months, they will help to extend the growing season.

5. Water. Perennials, established trees, evergreens and azaleas need one inch of water a week. Water into the ground so the water hydrates plant roots. Keep watering until our first hard frost. For USDA hardiness zone 5d, that is usually around Halloween.

6. Stop fertilizing and pruning. Wait until January-February after the plants are dormant and you can better see their form.

7. If you have trees with fungus or other issues, collect those leaves and burn or bury into the ground. I leave most of my leaves on flower beds except for diseased ones, don’t want to spread that fungus.

8.If you haven’t cleaned up flower beds of spent plants, here’s your last chance to gather seeds. Birds will take the rest after frost. Leave the rest to clean up in spring. By then, most of the greenery will have broken down and become part of the garden mulch.

A volunteer cantalope grew in my berry patch this year, the vines weaving over an arbor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A volunteer cantalope grew in my berry patch this year, the vines weaving over an arbor. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

9. Plant spring bulbs. Add a little bone meal at the bottom of the hole to slowly feed the bulbs. Plant bulbs close together if you don’t mind digging them up in a couple of years to separate. If you would rather not, give them some space in between. Mark where you planted them so you don’t dig them up next year when planting something else.

10. Leave the falling leaves where they are. If you are worried about your grass, run the mower over them. 11. Plant trees and bushes; make sure to water daily until frost.

12. Leaves return Nitrogen to the soil and make a wonderful amendment to flower beds and help retain moisture.

13. Stop long enough to enjoy the beauty of fall as leaves turn, native plants bloom and temperatures turn crisp and cool. A hot cup of tea sounds good about now!

Charlotte

October Gardening Chores

Lots of bulbs to plant this fall, they started in Missouri and are back for a short stay.

Lots of bulbs to plant this fall, they started in Missouri and are back for a short stay.

October Gardening Chores

This is one of the gardening chores I don’t look forward to, deciding what potted plants come inside for winter. Early in the month it’s time to start pruning and checking for any hitchhikers that may be inadvertently coming inside, too. Welcome to fall, and the gardening chores associated with putting a garden to bed for winter.

To cut down on leaf drop, bring in plants a month before turning on the heat. I tend to wait until a couple of days before hard frost is in the forecast to give my plants as much time outside as possible. Then I have to sweep up dropped leaves for weeks afterwards so don’t do what I do if you don’t like messy plants.

For single plants in separate plants, consider combining them, watering well and the bringing them inside. Even if they only last for a couple of months, they will help to extend the growing season a little longer. Do I sound like I miss my garden over winter? You bet, it's why my house looks like a little jungle mid-January.

If you haven’t been, you need to water. Perennials, evergreens and azaleas need one inch of water a week and we are sorely behind the average. Water with the hose in the ground so the water gets to the roots. Keep watering until our first hard frost. For USDA zone 5d, that is usually around Halloween.

If you have been fertilizing, no more. Also this is not the time to prune anything, wait until January after the plants are dormant.

If you haven’t cleaned up flower beds of spent plants, here’s your last chance to gather seeds. Birds will take the rest after frost. Leave the rest to clean up in spring. By then, most of the greenery will have broken down and become part of the garden mulch.

Last call to bring in fresh herbs: basil, rosemary, parsley, chives and stevia will also easily transition to a sunny, inside window in pots.

Geraniums, coleus, wax begonias, impatiens all will winter over inside if you keep them pinched and bushy. Geraniums will winter over stored in brown bags without soil. Really. I didn’t believe it until I tried it one year. I still prefer to bring them in still in pots so I can coax them to bloom through winter. So hardy, they will, too!

Time to get spring bulbs into the ground. Add a little bone meal at the bottom of the hole to slowly feed the bulbs. Plant bulbs close together if you don’t mind digging them up to separate in a couple of years. If you would rather not, give them some space in between. Mark where you planted them.

Dry leaves help to hold in moisture in flower beds so I layer mine with layers of fall leaves followed by winter mulch after the first frost. Right now I am adding the leaf layer. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Dry leaves help to hold in moisture in flower beds so I layer mine with layers of fall leaves followed by winter mulch after the first frost. Right now I am adding the leaf layer. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Leave the falling leaves where they are. If you are worried about your grass, run the mower over them. Leaves return Nitrogen to the soil and make a wonderful amendment to flower beds and help retain moisture. I started planting perennials this summer with holes lined with wet, dry leaves. Worked beautifully!

Charlotte