October Garden Chores & Ramblings

Night time temperatures have dipped to single digits, mornings arrive heavy with dew, and the wind blows oh so cold ... October is here.


The veggie garden beds are all cleaned up, with nothing left standing except the fall and winter goodies, things like kale, celery, kohlrabi, carrots, parsnips, spinach, and some newly seeded lettuces. 

They have been top dressed with fish compost and manure, feeding the soil so that I am good to go with planting when spring arrives. 


For a how-to on winterising your garden beds, bug prevention, and weed control for next spring, please click here.  


The October to-do schedule 

Transplant/move/plant - This is a great time to transplant or plant new trees and shrubs, too. Anything from the shops, growing in pots, will need no additional pruning or care, just amend the planting hole, rough up the roots a bit, and pop in the hole. Water once. Likely you will not need to do much more to it this season, unless we have many weeks of dry weather, so that it needs another shot of water.

Transplants though, they need a bit of tlc and pruning before you lift and move them. We are moving a few of our rose bushes, raspberries, and lilacs from the back yard to the front.

To plant the raspberries, we will be cutting them back down to about 6 inches tall, so that they put all their energy into getting a strong root system rather than fruiting or maintaining top growth.

The same goes for any roses being moved, except they get cut back to about 18" high. Lilacs are pruned with the 3 D's in mind (dead, damaged or diseased), other than that, pretty straight forward to move them.


Strawberries - Your strawberries should be renewed and rejuvenated every third or fourth year. After that time, the berries begin to get smaller, misshapen, dry, and less tasty.

Lift and compost the 'mother' plant, clip off the runners, and plant these 'daughter' plants into new rows that have been well amended with manure or compost.


Pruning - Most rose pruning is not done at this time, rather in late winter. However, if you have some really tall branches, you will need to cut them back by about half to prevent wind rock, or breakage should we get snow. If your shrub roses have finished blooming and are very bushy, cut them back by a quarter.

Hybrid Tea tree form roses (standards) should also be pruned back in fall to prevent breakage, while weeping rose trees need very little done to them.

Do not cut back your fruit trees at this time, wait till late winter, usually done in February or early March.


Plant garlic - Anytime this month is a great time to plant your garlic. Make sure your soil is rich in nutrients, plus loose and friable to easily push the cloves into the soil. For more garlic planting information, please click here for last year's how-to.


Lift bulbs - Cannas, callas, glads, dahlias, etc.. all bulbs, corms, and tubers can be lifted now to store for winter. Some say to leave them till the first frost hits them so they wilt and begin to turn brown, however, this is not a necessity.

Lift your bulbs, clean them off, leave to cure in a warm, airy spot for a week or two. I use the greenhouse tables, but you can place them on newsprint in the furnace room or laundry room, too. Do not place directly on concrete or you may get rot. Wooden surface, cardboard or newsprint is best.

After curing, prune the tubers to get rid of any bruised or damaged bits, toss out the old tired mother tuber (it will not flower again), and separate the tubers for more plants next year. Large tubers can be cut in half, as long as each piece has an eye or two (just like with potatoes). Place in a box or bin with vermiculite, peat moss, or potting soil, label, store in a cool-ish (+5°C), dark spot till spring.

I toss mine into a cardboard box with some potting soil and stick it under one of the greenhouse tables for the winter. Real dahlia growers/sellers will be more particular ; ) Connie of Connie's Dahlias places hers into plastic bins with vermiculite and stores them stacked up in her storage room.

Potted plants can be left in the pots, brought into a garage, greenhouse or shed, kept cool but not cold, cut back, and left till spring.

Click here for a more information about lifting, curing, and storing tubers.


Rake - Rake up all those leaves to make fabulous leaf mould, one of the best things to feed your soil. Rake them up into piles and let them rot down, using them when they are fully or partially composted. Or, dig a trench in the garden, toss in the leaves, let them rot down in the bed. Or, shred the leaves and top dress around your garlic and winter veggies, they will slowly get incorporated into the soil by the worms, bugs, and microorganisms. 
   
All leaves can be used to make this garden gold, even thick, tough leaves like those of the arbutus tree. They just take longer to break down. You can also use the leaves of fruit trees, even if they had issues with scab, fungal spot, or rust. These will break down during the composting process and will not be carried on in the compost.


Feed The Birds - Cut back any soggy or icky looking perennials, but leave flowers with seeds standing. Plants like coneflowers, black-eye susans, grasses, zinnias, blanket flowers, sneezeweed, sedums, rose hips, all provide fabulous fall and winter foods for our feathered friends. 

Weeds - Remove all weeds now before they spread their seeds everywhere to multiply by spring.

Stash Those Potted Plants - If you have perennials, roses, shrubs or trees in pots, especially in fragile ceramic or clay pots, place them someplace safe from the winter rains to prevent freezing and thawing which makes pots crack or crumble. Pop into a bright shed or garage, an unheated greenhouse, under the carport, curing shed, or under the eaves.

Other Things to do... 


Citrus trees - It is getting close to the time one has to think about how to over-winter citrus trees. Do NOT bring it into the house, is too hot, too dry, and not nearly bright enough. 

If you have a heated greenhouse or sunroom, pop it in there and keep the temps set at 5 to 10 °C. No warmer!

If not, pop it under the eaves by your front door, or on your deck, so that it does not get water logged and you can easily bring it inside when frost threatens.

An unheated greenhouse is great for over-wintering citrus, as well, however, you will need to think about how to keep it above zero when a cold snap is coming. Either pop a small heater into the greenhouse, or a light stand with several 100 watt light bulbs turned on to keep it above zero. Trees can also be strung up with old-fashioned Christmas lights and wrapped with a frost blanket to help keep them warm. For more information about over-wintering your lemons, oranges, or limes, click here.


Plant bulbs - Pop them into the ground or into containers. I know it seems like yet another job to do when your plate is already full, and is yet another expense when you just got the wee ones kitted up for school, but you will be oh so glad when spring comes along. Those blooms bursting from the ground while all else is still asleep, will bring you such joy.


Happy Gardening! 

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