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October Gardening Checklist: Embrace the Colors of Autumn

"October, the extravagant sister, has ordered an immense amount of the most gorgeous forest tapestry for her grand reception." - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

October is a glorious time in the garden as nature paints the landscape with vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. The changing colors and crispness in the air create a sense of magic and tranquility. It’s a time to appreciate the beauty of the season. To make the most of this month, here’s an October gardening checklist:

Fall Lawn Cleanup

Planning

  • Schedule an appointment to have your sprinklers shut off before freezing temperatures arrive. Prior to shutting them off, give your plants several deep waterings to prepare them for the winter months.
  • After raking the fallen leaves, shred them and spread them over your garden beds. This will enrich the soil as they decompose over the winter. If you don’t have leaves, straw can be used as an alternative. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch on top of the shredded leaves to retain moisture and insulate plant roots from frost.

Tasks for October

  • Protect garden ornaments, containers, and patio furniture from potential damage caused by winter weather by bringing them indoors whenever possible. If bringing them indoors is not possible, properly cover them for the weather ahead.
  • Begin planting spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths for a pop of color next spring.
  • Start cleaning up tools, sharpening blades on pruners, and scheduling your equipment for maintenance.
  • Stop feeding perennials and shrubs until spring.
  • Apply mulch around new and existing plants to help regulate soil temperature.
  • Add soil amendments to garden beds for improved soil quality.
  • Cover compost piles to prevent nutrient leaching.
  • Protect roses with plant protectors and sensitive shrubs and evergreens with wind barriers, burlap, and Wilt Stop.
  • Wrap trunks of young trees to prevent frost cracks.

Harvest and Care

  • Complete the final harvest of tender crops as cold temperatures become more frequent. Pick partially ripe tomatoes and ripen them indoors.
  • Harvest gourds when their stems start to brown and dry. Cure them at 70-80°F in a dry, well-ventilated location for two to four weeks.
  • Cole crops and root crops taste better after a freeze, so harvest them accordingly.
  • Harvest Brussels sprouts as they develop along the stem.
  • Harvest pumpkins and winter squash when their rind is hard and fully colored. Store them in a cool location until ready to use.

Cleanup and Preparation

  • Clean up vegetable beds after a killing frost and add plant material to the compost pile. This helps reduce overwintering pests and diseases.
  • Before the ground freezes, plant rhubarb, asparagus, garlic, shallots, and other crops that benefit from early planting.
  • Evaluate your garden and make notes for planning next year’s efforts. Take note of favorite varieties, their flavors, disease resistance, and overall performance. Also, observe locations of insect, disease, and weed problems for better crop rotation and management.

October is a time of reflection and preparation for the coming winter months. As you wrap up the gardening season, remember to embrace the virtues of every plant, for even those we consider weeds may hold hidden beauty and purpose. Enjoy the captivating colors of autumn and the bountiful harvest that nature provides.

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