|October Lawn and Garden Maintenance Checklist|
· Transplant any seedlings you may have started earlier in the summer.
· Plant radishes for Thanksgiving dinner.
· Planting trees and shrubs now gives them a chance to get settled for the winter and be ready to burst forth with fresh growth next spring. Our ground temperature is still warm, so roots will begin to get established quickly.
· Plant amaryllis in containers in mid to late-October for spectacular blooms during the holiday season.
· There is still time to divide and reset crowded perennials like phlox, violets, hollyhocks, irises, day lilies and shasta daisies. Amend soil with organic matter before replanting.
· Plant bulbs like tulips, hyacinths and daffodils from late-September to mid-November in well-prepared beds so the base of the bulb is at a depth three times its diameter. In sandy soil, set slightly deeper and in clay soils less deeply.
· In addition to bulbs, check your nursery or garden center for started plants of snapdragons, pinks, sweet Williams, poppies and calendulas. Planted now, they will provide a riot of spring color.
· Bulbs planted underneath pansies should be planted along with your pansies to prevent damaging either plant.
· If you didn’t seed your tall fescue lawn in September, do so by the middle of this month. Seed at a rate of four-five pounds per 1,000 square feet.
· Add compost and manure to enrich beds now.
· Fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons to promote good blooms in the spring.
· In beds cleared of plantings, sow red clover or fava beans. They add interest and can be dug in next spring as green manures.
· Holly plants with a heavy set of fruit often suffer a fertilizer deficiency. An application of complete fertilizer late this month can be helpful and provide a head start next spring.
· All fertilization of warm-season grasses, shrubs and roses should be stopped. Fertilizing these plants this late will encourage tender new growth which will not have a chance to harden off before our first frost.
· Lime your lawn any time between now and spring.
· After the first hard freeze, cut back perennials like aster, campanula, daylily, phlox and veronica leaving six-inch stubs above the ground.
· Pinch back leggy vines for fuller growth.
· Prune any diseased or stressed tree/shrub limbs, shoots now – while the healthy parts of the plant are more easily differentiated.
· Even though the weather is cooler this month, don’t forget to water an inch per week if natural rainfall doesn’t occur.
· Water succulents only every three to four weeks, just enough to keep them from shriveling.
· If you haven’t been keeping up with your weeding, you’re going to find it’s more work letting them go than trying to catch up. If you allow them to go to seed, you’ll have hundreds in the place of the one.
· Clean up all debris left in beds and under trees. Compost what you can and dispose of the rest. If you see bugs, fungus or other sorts of plant illness, get the plant debris out of the yard entirely. Burn it if you can. With many plants, fungal infections and plant diseases start in leaf litter.
· Good time to reduce the insect and disease potential in next year’s vegetable and flower garden. Clean up the garden, removing all annuals having completed their lifecycle. Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials finished flowering or as soon as frost has killed the leaves.
· Check your journal to see if there are any new plants or areas you want to develop. Continue to make notes in your journal of developments and ideas for spring.
· Soil test lawns and garden areas (separately) if you haven’t done so already.
· The more you do now not only makes your garden look more tidy through the winter, but it makes it much easier to work next spring.
· Ideal time to remove any plant not holding up its end of the bargain. Take out the old, the ugly, the sick and find them a new home or ditch them and try something new.
· Clean and store your pots. Extreme temperature fluctuations in the coldest part of the winter can result in the death of many a good pot. Empty them, compost the soil, hose them out well and store them dry in a covered shed or garage.
· Grab a wire brush and scrape off the caked-on dirt from tools like hoes and shovels. Wipe metal surfaces with an oiled rag. Lubricate all pivot points and springs. Wipe down wooden handles with boiled linseed oil to prevent drying and cracking. Sharpen bladed-tools like pruners and spray bare metal with a penetrating oil to prevent rusting.
· Empty the gas tank of lawn mowers, string trimmers and edgers. Wipe the entire unit down with a clean rag to protect its surfaces and grease all lubrication points. Store your lawn equipment in a clean, dry place. If equipment is light enough, hang on the wall in the garage.
· Give your lawn furniture a good cleaning before you store it. Wash all fabric cushions and store those inside, out of damp weather conditions. Move ceramic fireplaces into the basement; extreme cold weather can cause the pots to crack or break completely.
· Winterize sprinkler system by blowing out all water with an air compressor.
· Drain and coil your garden hoses.
· Dig up dahlia tubers, label each and store in sawdust over the winter.
· Continue to mow lawns at 2-1/2-3 inches. Grass clip-pings may be added directly to compost heap. Avoid adding soaking wet clippings to compost.
· If you gave your houseplants a summer vacation outdoors, it’s now time to bring them inside. Before you do this, clean foliage by spraying with a hose or wiping leaves with a damp cloth. Spray an insecticidal soap to take care of any bugs that may be hitchhiking on your plants. Clean dirt off the pots. Reduce watering and allow the soil in the containers to dry out a bit before bringing them back inside.
· Strawberries should be mulched in the fall to prevent winter injury. Excellent mulching materials include clean, weed-free straw and chopped cornstalks. (Leaves are not a good mulch for strawberries. Leaves tend to mat together and do not provide adequate protection.) Apply three to five inches of the material. After settling, the depth of the mulch should be approximately two to four inches.
· Winterize aquatic gardens. Hardy water plants may remain in ponds as long as they don’t freeze.
· Remove tropical water plants, cut off all foliage and flowers and store tubers in an indoor aquarium where the water remains 55o or in moist sand in a bucket at 55o.
· Continue to feed the birds with seed and suet - they’ll help rid your trees of pest larvae, eggs and insects. Plus they bring color, sound and movement to a sometimes dreary winter.
· Collect some of the season’s last blooms for drying. Globe amaranths, Mexican bush sage, zinnias, mealycup sage, cockscombs and golden fernleaf yarrow dry well. Cut flowers in midmorning after the dew has dried. Remove foliage from stems. Then tie flowers in bundles and hang upside-down in a cool place with good air circulation to dry.
· Gourds, pumpkins and Indian corn are readily available in multiple colors at farmers markets, roadside stands and grocery stores. Mix with dried flowers like cockscombs, sunflowers and gomphreras to make simple arrangements.
· Cut back perennials when they die down after the first hard freeze.
· Prepare vegetable garden for next year by removing debris before spreading a one-inch layer of decomposed organic matter and roto-tilling in well.
· Start collecting leaves for the compost pile. Be sure to have extra soil available so each six-inch layer of leaves may be covered with several inches of soil. Always wet the layer of leaves thoroughly before adding the soil. Add about one pound of a complete lawn or garden fertilizer to each layer of leaves to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition.
· Keep Christmas cactus in a sunny spot where night temperatures can be kept below 65o. Buds will drop if you allow night temperatures to go above 70o or if you allow the plant to become excessively dry. They should also be kept in total darkness from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. for about 30 days in October to initiate flower buds.
· If you have saved seeds of your favorite plants, allow them to become air dry. Then place them in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Be sure to label each packet carefully. Remember, seed from hybrid plants will seldom resemble the parent plant.
· If you are planning to save caladium tubers for another year, dig them in late October and allow to dry in a well-ventilated but shady area. After seven to ten days, remove leaves and dirt, then pack in dry peat moss, vermiculite or similar material for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other. Dust with all-purpose fungicide as you pack. Place container in an area where temperature won’t drop below 50o.
· Wearing rubber gloves, remove and discard nesting material from birdhouses. To help prevent the spread of avian diseases and parasites, rinse birdhouses with a solution of one-part bleach to ten-parts water. Allow them to dry thoroughly then remount.
· Pick broccoli and brussels sprouts before a killing frost hits. Cut pumpkins and winter squash with two-inch stems; store at 50-60o. Beets, carrots, potatoes and turnips keep best at 35-45o in barely damp sand. Onions and shallots need cool, dry storage in mesh bags or slotted crates. Store apples and pears indoors in separate containers at 33-40o.
· Bulbs like cannas and elephant ears normally overwinter fine, provided leaves are cut off following the killing frost and are mulched with leaves, pine needles, etc. They also can be lifted, but it is much easier to leave them in the ground.
· Pick herbs to freeze and/or dry.
· Leave leeks, carrots, beets, spinach in the garden for harvest as needed.
· Take cuttings, if desired, to winter indoors.
· Consider leaving ornamental grasses as-they-are. They make for some lovely landscaping during the bleaker months.
· Watch for frost warnings; protect/cover plants and vegetables as needed.