- October is prime time for planting spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, in most parts of the country. Plant them about 3 times as deep as their height with the pointy end up. Finish by mid-November or before the ground freezes.
- October is also a good month to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials. The exception is borderline hardy plants that are better planted in spring.
- Continue watering gardens, shrubs and trees if rainfall doesn’t reach an inch or more every week or 10 days. It’s important for plants to go into cold weather with adequate moisture.
- When watering duties are finished for the season, drain the garden hose, coil it up and, for the longest life, store out of the elements.
- Dig tender garden bulbs for winter storage. Gladiolus corms should be dug when leaves begin to yellow. Caladiums and tuberous begonias should be dug before a killing frost. Dig canna and dahlia roots after a heavy frost. Remove top growth and allow the bulbs, roots, rhizomes and tubers to air dry on newspaper or cloth. When dry, roll tender bulbs in newspapers or pack in sand, vermiculite or mesh bags and store in a cool location.
- Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost, but when the rind is hard and fully colored. Store in a cool location until ready to use.
- Harvest mature, green tomatoes before frost and ripen indoors in the dark.
- Asparagus top growth should not be removed until foliage yellows. Let foliage stand over winter to collect snow for insulation and moisture.
- Strawberry plants need protection from winter extremes. Apply winter protection when plants are dormant but before temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
- Prepare new beds now for planting next spring. The soil is usually easier to work in the fall and fall-prepared beds allow for earlier plantings in spring.
- As frost browns perennial foliage, prune it to the ground, except for mums, sedum, ornamental grasses and plants with seeds that you want to leave for birds (such as coneflowers and black-eyed susans). When in doubt, let it be and do the deed at the end of winter before new growth appears.
- Rake or shred tree leaves, especially large ones like maple and sycamore, to prevent them from matting down and smothering grass. You can also run over the leaves with a mulching mower, which chops them into small bits. These finely chopped leaves can be left on the lawn, where they will break down and add nutrients to the soil.
- Now’s an ideal time to start a compost pile if you don’t already have one. The combination of spent plants from the garden, excess fallen leaves and grass clips from the final, shorter cut of the season make a perfect compost blend.
- Clean garden tools before putting them away for winter. Use soapy water and a steel brush or sand paper to remove caked-on dirt or rust. Apply a lightweight oil to a rag and wipe all of the metal on the tools to prevent rust. Vegetable cooking oil works fine for this task. Scrub wooden or fiberglass handles to remove dirt and debris. Sand any rough spots to reduce splinters. Use a furniture paste wax on the handles or wipe with linseed oil to keep the wood from drying out.
- Sharpen garden tools, such as shovels, spades, trowels, hoes and lawn mower blades before storing them for winter. Use a sharpening stone, file or bench sharpener.
Protect tender shrubs from sprays
from road traffic.
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
- Protect shrubs near roadways from the spray of salt, water and ice with burlap, plastic tarp or other material.
- Erect physical barriers around woody plants and trees if rabbits, rodents or deer are a problem. Metal mesh (1/4-inch) hardware cloth is good for this. Pull mulch away from trunks to discourage rodents from making a winter home there.
- Spray evergreens, including newly planted ones, with an antidesiccant when temperature is above 40 degrees F. These products protect plants from drying out.
- Have soil ready to mound on roses for winter protection. (Do not mound or cover roses until after the leaves drop and the soil is near freezing, usually late November or early December.)