October consists of 31 days and is book ended on the calendar same as all the other months, so why does it always seem too short?
It could be because it’s a month when time is on the move? Darkness creeps into days, leaves change from green to gold to red as if overnight, and hardy summer crops wrap up their life cycles in a hurry. No matter the answer, there’s something about this time of year that makes me take pause because, I know if I blink, it will soon be winter.
Every minute counts. It’s time to soak up fall with all its precious details and winterize your garden. And, unbelievably, it’s time to plan for spring.
Of the things on my garden to-do list, I generally prioritize them from must to want.
Clean up Summer Crops
Harvest what you can and compost spent, pest free plant material. If you come across a plant that is deeply rooted, simply clip the stem near the base of the plant, leaving the roots to compost in the ground. Leave green leaves and plants to continue their life cycle and consider leaving seed heads of flowers to feed the birds.
Mulch & Compost
Tuck your garden in for winter with a warm blanket that will also protect soil from heavy rains while adding fertility. I like to apply a thick layer of coarse compost as well as a healthy layer of leaves. When mulching, choose leaves that are not allelopathic. Allelopathy is like chemical warfare in the natural world. It’s the process by which some plants protect themselves, generating deposits of toxic chemicals in their leaves, stems, and bark which can be harmful to other plants. It’s the same reason plants don’t grow under or near the drip line of walnut trees. Some allelopathic plants include: rhododendron, sumac, forsythia, English laurel, bearberry, and walnut.
Seed Wildflowers, Winter Vegetables & Garlic
If the weather is in your favor, seed more wildflowers, carrots and winter veg. Throw in a couple extra broad beans for good favor and try growing a new variety of hardy greens. Mustards, mache or wasabi arugula could be your next, new favorite.
Divide Perennials & Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
In a few months, you’ll be happy for the efforts given to plants now. Divide plants whose centers are bare due to overcrowding and plant bulbs in groups of 3, 5 or more. If you’re not sure which bulbs to grow, narcissus are always a sure bet. They’re toxic so are generally overlooked by marauding critters such as squirrels and gophers, and are a cheerful site come spring.
More Tips, Ideas & Suggestions
Start with the few suggestions above and if you’re looking for further tips see the complete list in my article in Better Homes and Gardens: How to Make the Most of Your October Garden.
Fall Garden Checklist is also full of gardening must-do’s and fun suggestions to make the most of your October garden.
Get a head start on companion plants and plants for pollinators. Bees have recently been added to the Endangered Species List.
Related post: Grow a Better Pollinator Garden
Related post: September Garden Checklist
Related post: Container Garden Carrots from Seed to Plate