October is truly the beginning of cold weather in most gardens. Whether you are still enjoying Indian summer in zone 8 or battling hard frost in zone 3, there are many things you can do to make the garden grow its best.

If you live in zones 3 to 5

To Do in the Vegetable Garden

If you have sown a cover crop in the vegetable bed, till it into the soil before first hard frost and mulch it well. In zone 5, you can still sow a quick cover crop. Remember to add Nature’s Aid at planting time to help the soil absorb nutrients even more quickly.

Garlic is a long-lived perennial. Plant it now for years of great eating!

Garlic is a long-lived perennial. Plant it now for years of great eating!

After the first frosts, harvest cool-season vegetables (collards, turnips, parsnips, beets, radishes, and carrots) as well as any remaining fruit such as apples.

Plant garlic.

 

To Do in the Flower Garden

As the plants you have ordered for fall begin to arrive, let them rest for a day or two in shade with plenty of water, then transplant them quickly into the garden. Keep watering them until hard frost.

Prune your roses way back, mulch the roots in heavily, and cover the whole shrub with straw if needed to protect against severe winter weather.

Prune your roses way back, mulch the roots in heavily, and cover the whole shrub with straw if needed to protect against severe winter weather.

Prune back roses and mulch them heavily.

Save seeds of any open-pollinated (not hybrid) varieties you want to grow again. Place a bag over the seedheads and when it rattles with dropped seeds, remove it and store the seeds. Don’t forget to label them!

If you are letting any plants self-sow in the garden, allow them to dry out completely before removing. Mulch the area lightly to prevent seed loss from birds, leaf-blowers, and rakes.

Verbena bonariensis is happy to reseed in your garden! When letting plants self-sow, choose varieties that have no "name" -- just a genus and species. These are open-pollinated and will come true from seed.

Verbena bonariensis is happy to reseed in your garden! When letting plants self-sow, choose varieties that have no “name” — just a genus and species. These are open-pollinated and will come true from seed.

Dig up any remaining tender bulbs (Dahlia, Canna, Calla, Caladium, etc.) and store indoors for winter.

Plant bulbs as soon as they arrive.

 

To Do in the Herb Garden

Cut any remaining annual herb plants and harvest the foliage and/or seeds.

Cut back perennial herbs (lavender, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme) to overwinter in the garden.

Grow a kitchen herb garden under fluorescents or in a bright window!

Grow a kitchen herb garden under fluorescents or in a bright window!

Transplant any herb seedlings you have sown indoors into pots for kitchen windowsill gardens.

To Do in the Indoor Garden

Grow Amaryllis for holiday blooms.

Order Paperwhites and Hyacinths to force indoors this winter.

Continue to grow rooted cuttings of annuals (Periwinkle, Geranium, Sweet Potato Vine, Coleus, Begonia, Alternanthera) in a draft-free sunny window.

Order Countertop Mushroom Kits.

Gourmet shiitakes grown in the home? for maximum fresh nutrition and flavor? Yes, please!

Gourmet shiitakes grown in the home? for maximum fresh nutrition and flavor? Yes, please!

Transplant any seedlings sown indoors into pots for winter houseplants.

 

To Do in the Whole Garden

Discontinue regular watering of trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials to prepare for winter, but continue to water new plantings until frost.

Place Easy Tunnels or row covers over any plants needing frost protection.

Dig holes and prepare planting sites for any bulbs and plants still waiting to be planted this fall.

Turn the compost pile and continue adding leaves.

Protein-rich suet is a bird's best friend during the lean winter months.

Protein-rich suet is a bird’s best friend during the lean winter months.

Clean the garden of all debris before the first snowfall. Replace mulch anywhere it is needed.

Clean and refill birdfeeders, and add suet feeders after frost. Drain birdbaths or add de-icers for winter.

 

If you live in zones 6 to 8

To Do in the Vegetable Garden

Continue harvesting vegetable crops. If frost is anticipated, pick winter squash and let it finish in a sunny window.

As vegetable crops finish, till legume plants (beans and peas) back into the soil to help fix nitrogen. Toss other plants onto the compost pile.

Set out Brassica family (cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, pak choi) seedlings begun indoors.

Cauliflower doesn't mind cold weather or even a touch of frost!

Cauliflower doesn’t mind cold weather or even a touch of frost!

Order and plant garlic.

In zones 7 and 8, direct-sow micro-greens and radishes for quick late-season crops.

In zone 8, if weather permits, sow cover crops in the vegetable patch. Remember to add Nature’s Aid for even better soil building!

 

To Do in the Flower Garden

Order bulbs, perennials, climbers, shrubs, and trees for fall planting, and prepare the garden to receive them. When they arrive, water the plants thoroughly and let them rest for a day or two, then plant them without fertilizer, watering them in well and mulching heavily.

Look beyond the perennial border for good blooms to dry. Hydrangeas last for months and look terrific!

Look beyond the perennial border for good blooms to dry. Hydrangeas last for months and look terrific!

Prune your roses, clear away any garden debris around the plants, and mulch them heavily to prevent winter damage.

Continue to harvest flowers for drying as everlastings for indoor arrangements

Continue to direct-sow perennial seeds for germination in spring.

Save seeds of any open-pollinated (not hybrid) varieties you want to grow again in spring.

Dig up the bulb (corm, tuber, etc.) of tender plants such as Dahlia, Four o’Clock, Caladium, Canna, and Calla. Store indoors over winter in a shoebox filled with clean kitty litter or perlite.

One of the joys of Dahlia is that you can grow it from inexpensive seed, then harvest the tuber in fall for next year (and beyond!).

One of the joys of Dahlia is that you can grow it from inexpensive seed, then harvest the tuber in fall for next year (and beyond!).

Let open-pollinated (not hybrid) varieties self-sow in the garden by leaving the final blooms on the plant until they dry out completely. Butterfly Weed, Black-eyed Susan, Chocolate Flower, Echinacea paradoxa, and Verbena bonariensis are all good reseeders!

In zone 8, plant out seedlings of cool-season flowers and ornamentals sown indoors, such as Pansies, Mums, and Ornamental Cabbage and Kale.

 

To Do in the Herb Garden

Continue to harvest herbs for drying and grinding into spices. Where cool weather has already arrived, cut the entire plant rather than harvesting leaf by leaf.

Keep that holiday scent in the house all winter with fast-growing, easy Spearmint!

Keep that holiday scent in the house all winter with fast-growing, easy Spearmint!

Take cuttings of any herbs you want to root and grow under plant lights this winter. Basil, lavender, marjoram, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme all root easily from cuttings.

Severely prune perennial herbs (lavender, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme) to overwinter in the garden.

 

To Do in the Indoor Garden

As soon as your Amaryllis bulbs arrive, begin growing them for holiday color.

Order Paperwhites and Hyacinths for forcing indoors this winter.

Order Countertop Mushroom Kits.

Bring any tender potted plants indoors for winter.

Can't say goodbye to your Geraniums but don't have the time to root cuttings? Dig up the plant and pot it up for indoor color this winter!

Can’t say goodbye to your Geraniums but don’t have the time to root cuttings? Dig up the plant and pot it up for indoor color this winter!

Take and root cuttings of annual plants such as Geraniums (Pelargonium), Begonia, Periwinkle, Sweet Potato Vine, Impatiens, Coleus, and Alternanthera.

Sow seeds indoors of kitchen herbs for winter, and transplant seedlings from the Bio Dome into containers for kitchen windowsill gardens.

 

To Do in the Whole Garden

When bulbs arrive, plant them promptly.

Get your daffodil bulbs planted promptly, and if you live in a warm climate, dig a deeper-than-recommended hole so they get more "chill time" this winter!

Get your daffodil bulbs planted promptly, and if you live in a warm climate, dig a deeper-than-recommended hole so they get more “chill time” this winter!

Reduce regular watering of established trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials to prepare for winter. Continue to water any new plantings thoroughly until frost.

Place Easy Tunnels or row covers over any plants needing frost protection.

Keep leaves raked, adding to compost pile.

Dig holes and prepare planting sites for any bulbs and plants still to be received in fall.

Clean out and refill birdfeeders, adding suet feeders as the first frosts arrive.

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

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