Fall has crept upon us, the air has a nice chill, and there is plenty to do in the garden. Here are some timely tips for gardening in October.

  • The only plants that need fertilizer in the fall are spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. They develop a root system only from the fall to late spring or early summer, so they need nutrients only during that time. Their roots begin to develop as the soil temperature begins to cool, so make sure the fertilizer has been applied by that time.

  • Wait until spring to fertilize shrubs and trees.  Fertilizer added to them now will interfere with their ability to go dormant and could reduce winter hardiness.  Bonemeal or superphosphate can be applied if needed, but avoid adding any fertilizer that contains nitrogen.

  • Before moving plants inside for winter, carefully inspect for insect pests and spray with soapy water or an insecticide if necessary.

  • Daylilies are excellent companions for daffodils when spaced properly. As late daffodils finish flowering, daylilies will begin to grow to hide the ripening leaves of the daffodils. Set daffodils at least 6 inches from the base of the daylilies and be prepared to dig and move them as the daylilies spread.

  • Remove all plant debris from the garden to prevent diseases and insects from over-wintering there.

  • If you have an abundance of leaves available, count yourself lucky!  They are a valuable addition to the garden, either as a mulch or a soil amendment.  Larger leaves are best shredded by the lawnmower before adding to the garden.  If you have no place to use them this year, place them in a large bin made from chicken wire, keep them from drying out completely, and you’ll have rich, fluffy leaf mold to use as a soil conditioner next year!

  • When mulching trees, make sure the mulching material is placed a few inches away from the trunk to prevent damage from mice, voles, and rabbits during the winter.
  • If frost catches you with lots of green tomatoes left on the vine, pick them and wrap them individually in newspaper or paper bag for ripening over the next few months.  Check every few weeks for ripeness. Partially ripe tomatoes will continue to ripen on the countertop out of direct sun.
  • Leave stalks of Marigolds, Zinnias, Asters, and Cosmos standing in the garden through the fall to attract seed-eating birds.  Evening Primrose and Coneflower seedheads can also be left to provide food for Goldfinches.
  • When unpacking Park Seed plants, make sure you remove the Excelsior packing material from around the roots and soil.  These pine shavings are too fresh and raw to add to the soil.  Instead, place them in the compost bin for about a year before using in the garden.



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