October’s Garden: Reap the Rewards

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Fall is a time to rejoice as our gardens, bodies, minds and spirits are revived, renewed and rejuvenated as crisp, sunny days, gentle breezes, blue skies and glorious colors fill our garden-scapes.

After soaking up more than my fair share of heat in this summer’s garden, I’m doing a happy dance now looking forward to the fabulous fall days ahead.


Photo Cassandra Warner

Photo Cassandra Warner

*Fall flowers such as mums, violas, asters, pansies, snap dragons, dianthus, stocks, primrose, diascias, ornamental kale and cabbage.

*There is a coneflower that has pretty fall colors:  “Cheyenne Spirit” with beautiful shades of orange and yellow, and they have a divine fragrance. I just planted some with perennial hibiscus which has gorgeous fall color leaves.  And it has fabulous flowers from summer to fall, which make a lovely tea.

*Plant, divide or move perennials.

*Begin planting balled and burlaped or potted trees and shrubs. Water well and mulch to retain moisture. Continue watering until rain increases.

*Sow seeds for spring flowers such as poppies, larkspur and cornflower.

*It may be possible to still get spinach planted now before frost and overwinter it to get an early spring crop. To prepare a 24 square foot bed for spinach, spread about 1/2 inch of compost over and add a sprinkling of greensand (for potash) and alfalfa meal (for nitrogen), and water  thoroughly.  Spinach can take some frost without damage, so don’t cover it too soon.  But once there is a freeze, cover it with 6 inches of shredded leaves or straw, then top that off with a tarp.  Come spring, uncover, water and feed with fish emulsion and kelp. Continue to give weekly feedings, and keep the soil weeded and moist.

*Begin planting daffodil bulbs in October.

*Plan beds and make selection of spring flowering bulbs to be planted mid October-December. Don’t miss out on those spring beauties.

*Early fall is the best time for planting new hydrangeas. They prefer to be in semi shade in rich, healthy, moist soil.

*Plant garlic and shallots right at the time of the first killing frost or shortly thereafter.

*Plant radishes, leaf lettuce, arugula and corn salad in a box made of hay bales covered with an old window for salads through the winter.


*Cut back asparagus ferns once they have browned out after a killing frost. Top the plants off with some compost or composted manure and 3-4 inches of mulch.

*Prune late flowering shrubs and trees when dormant.

Photo Cassandra Warner

Photo Cassandra Warner

Photo Cassandra Warner

Photo Cassandra Warner

*Lift and store tender bulbs.

*Prune rambler roses.

*Fertilize deciduous and evergreen shrubs.

*Feed roses early in the month for a good fall flower show.

*The Japanese beetles are returning to the soil, so treat for grubs with milky spore. This will also help reduce winter mole destruction.

*Clean up all rotten fruit on the ground around trees to deter infestations that can last through the winter.

*You will probably need to weed and weed some more.  Can you win the war with weeds?  No, I don’t think you can ever beat them all. However, all that you get out now before seeds begin to drop will be a big plus for the weeder and negative for the “weedee.”

*Collect seeds from perennials and annuals now. When drying flower heads such as zinnias and cosmos, dry on screens, then remove the seeds, and store them in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.  Do remember, though, to leave a few for the birds this winter.

Renewed, Revived and Rejuvenated Factor

One of the most important components we have in our garden is our soil, and, of course, we want it to be healthy.  Fall is a good time to replace some of the materials that will keep your soil in great condition and give it the RRR FACTOR.

The spectacular sight of trees covered in jewel toned leaves are something to rejoice about.  Those same fall leaves will help revive, renew and rejuvenate the soil.

The yellow, gold, orange, red and brown leaves falling from the trees are a treasure to gather for the garden.  I like to mow over mine to shred them to use in the compost pile, bag them and forget them until they become soft, crumbly leaf mold.  I dig the shredded leaves into my beds.  Use them as mulch and as a component of the organic matter used to layer over a garden bed for the winter.

*To give a calcium boost to the garden, grind your egg shells in a blender into a powder and sprinkle in the garden.

*To add magnesium and sulfate, which are crucial to plant life, sprinkle a little Epsom salt in your garden soil.

*Go ahead and dig in all the good compost, aged manure, shredded leaves and organic matter you can find now and you’ll be well REWARDED in the spring with the RRR FACTOR.


Jerusalem Artichokes, aka, sunchokes.  Photo Cassandra Warner

Jerusalem Artichokes, aka, sunchokes. Photo Cassandra Warner

*In October you can begin to harvest sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes). Their yellow flowers are so pretty dancing and swaying in the breeze against the beautiful, blue sky, and a delight to see the bees happily buzzing from one flower to another.  From now through February, harvest the tubers that you need for no more than two weeks at a time.  Wash them and store wrapped in a paper towel in the crisper 1-2 weeks.  I have continued to harvest even into March.

*Dig sweet potatoes before frost kills the vines.

*Harvest tender herbs.

*Harvest all tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash before the first frost.

*Harvest all pumpkins and gourds before the first frost. Don’t forget those cute little ones.

Fall is definitely a season to rejoice. Body, mind, spirit and garden can all renew, revive and rejuvenate in all the glory of fall.  And remember to reap the reward, relax, rejoice and save room in the garden to dance!

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