• Prepare beds for planting pansies when they become available at the Co-op. They need a well-drained soil and exposure to at least a half-day of sun. It is best to use started plants, as seeds are difficult to handle.
• Separate individual garlic cloves from the mother bulb and plant them outdoors in good garden soil 1 to 2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart.
• Plant snapdragons, pinks, sweet williams, poppies and calendulas. They provide a riot of spring color.
• Planting trees and shrubs this month gives them a chance to settle in well for the winter and be ready to burst forth with fresh growth next spring. Don’t hesitate to add if your yard needs an addition or two.
• Planted in the yard or in pots, chrysanthemums are a reliable burst of autumn glory. You can easily transplant them now.
• Transplant any seedlings that you may have started earlier in the summer. If moved now to their permanent location, small perennials will get a jump start and reward you with strong, healthy growth earlier next spring.
Plant spring bulbs like tulips, hyacinths and daffodils now as well as peonies so they can get firmly established. If you’ve lifted your spring bulbs during the summer, check each bulb for damage. Each bulb should be firm and solid. If you didn’t lift bulbs, now is an excellent time to divide bulb sets. Discard bulbs that are shriveled or too small. Prepare your beds, place bulbs, then dig your holes. Add a little bulb fertilizer or bone meal to each hole. Plant bulbs in well prepared beds so the base of the bulb is at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb. In sandy soil, set slightly deeper and in clay soils less deeply.
• Dig up and divide clumps of daylilies, irises and daisies. When lifted, some will fall apart easily, while others may need to be coaxed. Set the plants back into the soil at their original growing depth, water well and mulch. Give extras to friends.
• Bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, Swiss chard, green onions, mustard greens, spinach, rape and turnips can be planted now.
• Fall is a great time to plant a "salad garden." Unlike the vegetables of the summer garden, home grown radishes, lettuce, onions and herbs can flourish with cooler weather, less sunlight and less garden space.
• Fescue lawns can be reseeded now; most summer grasses can be overseeded with rye.
• For some indoor color, force bulbs for early blooms. A few of these are paper whites, amaryllis, hyacinths, tulips, crocus,
glory-of-the-snow, grape hyacinth – check bulb pack to see if it can be forced.
• If your water garden is shallow, lift hardy water lilies out of the pond, cut away the leaves and move to cool
• Use a slow-release fertilizer at planting time with hardy annuals.
• Foliar feed all plantings and feed cool-season vegetables as needed.
• Use lime in your vegetable/flower garden and on your lawn based upon the results of a soil test.
• Apply a winterizer formula fertilizer (low nitrogen type) to St. Augustine (thru Nov).
• Fertilize forced bulbs with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
• 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.
• Fertilize azaleas and rhododendrons to promote good blooms in the spring. Water well if it’s been dry.
• Fall is an excellent time to fertilize the lawn. Even though the turfgrass foliage stops growing in the late fall, the roots continue to absorb and utilize nutrients. An application of fertilizer in late October or early November helps promote root growth and early green up the following spring. Apply 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.
• Now that the woody plants have completed their growth cycle, you can prune if you wish. Skip the spring bloomers - they get pruned after flowering next year.
• Pick-prune shrubs as needed, but save major pruning for winter.
• This month may be your last opportunity to remove old or dead growth. In trees this can be especially important because with winter storms, tree damage can cause havoc with not just the lawn and garden but a stray branch or two through a window can really spoil your day.
• Prune away dead twigs for general clean up of roses.
• Cut back mums after they bloom. Deadhead pansies for prolific blooms all season long.
• Pull up frost-tender plants (like marigolds, impatiens and zinnias) toward end of month before first expected freeze to allow room for cool-season annuals.
• Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have finished flowering or as soon as frost has killed the leaves.
• Thin turnip and radish plantings to give more room for roots to develop.
• For bigger and better Brussels sprouts, pinch out the top of the plant when sprouts at the bottom are fully-grown.
• Water cool-season vegetables, newly set out and established shrubs, trees, annuals/wildflowers and emerging seedlings during dry spells.
• Keep forced bulbs’ potting medium moist (but not sopping wet).
(Always read and follow directions on crop protectant packages)
• October is a good time to reduce the insect and disease potential in next year’s garden. Clean up the garden, removing all annuals that have completed their life cycle. Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have finished flowering or as soon as frost has killed the leaves.
• Don’t procrastinate; if you haven’t been keeping up with your weeding, you’re going to find it’s more work letting them go, then trying to catch up. If you allow them to go to seed, you’ll have hundreds or thousands in the place of the one you coulda, woulda, shoulda pulled.
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. With many plants, fungal infections and plant diseases start in leaf litter. Clean is good.
• Fall is an excellent time to clean and till the vegetable garden, especially if you experienced insect and disease problems. Many plant pathogens overwinter in the garden on infected plant debris.
• Control scale with dormant oil spray, making sure to cover the undersides of plant leaves. Scales are insect pests that suck plant sap, weakening plants.
• To reduce feeding and breeding sites of pests such as crickets, remove any dense vegetation that is right next to the house foundation and clean up piles of bricks, stones, wood or other debris. If you store firewood outdoors, get it off the ground to help keep bugs out. If possible, stack it with the bark side up or cover the wood to repel rain.
• Remove cabbage loopers in your garden by using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or Dipel.
• Watch for grass fungus (Brown Patch, etc.) use Immunox, Immunox Plus or Lawn Fungicide Granules.
• Handpull or hoe any weedy grass clumps and wild garlic (make sure ground is moist so you will get the bulb).
• Re-treat for spring weeds including spurweed sticker. Spread pre-emergent herbicide, FL Winterizer & Weed Preventer (common Bermuda and St. Augustine lawns only) or Balan (also prevents cool season weeds).
• Continue insect and disease control on roses.
• Inspect all house plants before bringing indoors. Keep quarantined and treat for any pest infestation before exposing to other indoor plants.
• Watch for storage diseases on bulbs.
• 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.
• Continue to mow lawns at 2-1/2 inch to 3 inches. Grass clippings may be added directly to compost heap. Avoid adding soaking wet clippings to compost.
• Clean up orchard area: remove broken limbs, old fruit and debris.
• Harvest sweet potatoes, gourds, pumpkins and winter squash before frost.
• Start collecting leaves for the compost pile. Be sure to have extra soil available so that each 6 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.
• Excess fallen leaves can be shredded and kept aside to use later next month as mulch for perennial and garden beds.
• Rake up fallen pine needles and use for mulch.
• Renew mulch around shrubs and rose beds and mulch all shrubs that have not been mulched. Loosen mulches that have packed down.
• 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.
• A few weeks after a killing frost, lift and store tender bulbs. This might be as late as November. Cut back above-ground foliage and stems of cannas and dahlias to 4 to 5 inches. Gently lift up tubers using a pitchfork. Shake off excess soil and dry tubers in a warm dry place. Do not separate the mass of tuberous roots at this time. When dry, place labeled tubers in cardboard boxes lined with newspaper and filled with barely moist wood shavings, peat moss or vermiculite. Store between 40 and 50° in darkened room. Check periodically to be sure tubers haven’t rotted (throw away) or begun to dry out (sprinkle gently with water). Gladioli corms are dug, dried and stored between 35 and 40° in paper bags or open-weave mesh bags.
• Cut back any remaining herbs and bring indoors to use fresh or dry.
• Protect tender plants from light freezes at night by covering them with sheets, plastic or upturned bushel baskets.
• To re-flower a poinsettia, give it uninterrupted darkness 14 hours each day until December, then move to a well-lighted location.
• Collect some of the season’s last blooms for drying. Globe amaranths, Mexican bush sage, zinnias, mealycup sage, cockscombs and golden fernleaf yarrow will all 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.
• Houseplants should be gradually acclimated to indoor conditions and brought inside before first anticipated frost of
• Any soil-less mix from window boxes or containers can be discarded or kept aside for one more year. If used for a second year, mix equal parts old mix with fresh soil-less mix.
• Clean and sterilize containers before storing over winter.
• Pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn are available in multiple colors at grocery stores and roadside stands. Mix them with dried flowers such as celosia, sunflowers and gomphrenas to make simple arrangements for your table.
• Keep Christmas cactus in a sunny spot where night temperatures can be kept below 65°. Buds will drop if you allow night temperatures to go above 70° 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.
• This is an ideal time to remove any plant that isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. Take out the old, the ugly, the sick and anything that sucks up more of your life than you want it to take. You know which plants those are. If it makes you feel better, find them a new home. Otherwise, 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 of good pot. Empty them, compost the soil, hose them out well and store them dry in a covered shed or garage.
• Clean all of your tools well. Sharpen edges, oil wood handles and store in a dry location.
• Bring in pots of herbs like parsley, chives and thyme for fresh herbs during the winter. They’ll do okay in a sunny window.
Chill tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator until December before planting. The lower part of the refrigerator is best. Do not leave bulbs in airtight plastic bags during refrigerated storage. Do not store in a refrigerator with apples.
• Gardeners with large trees in their yard need to rake and compost the fallen leaves. A thick layer of leaves left on the lawn will damage and possibly destroy the turfgrass plants.
• 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 3 to 5 inches of the material. After settling, the depth of the mulch should be approximately 2 to 4 inches.
• A fall-tilled garden dries out and warms up quicker in the spring and permits early spring planting of the cool season crops.
• 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 55° or in moist sand in a bucket at 55°.
• 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.