October sees our first hints of fall. Things begin to cool down, and this triggers slower growth. This month is probably too soon to plant trees and shrubs. You will want to wait for them to be fully dormant especially if bare root or ball and burlap. The summer perennials and annuals are beginning to look a little spent. Summer grasses will be slowing their growth, and begin to turn brown with the first frosts. Interest in the October garden usually comes in the form of colorful leaves and red berries on hollies as well as ripening apples. There is less of the fun stuff in this month, so it is a good time for catching up on a lot of the maintenance tasks that have been avoided.
Summer lawns like Bermuda will see their last mowing in September or October. You should allow these lawns to grow longer than usual. Up to about three inches will let these lawns harden off before the first killing frost. You can begin to apply pre-emergent weed control. You have a couple of months before it has to be applied. Pre-emergent needs to be applied in time to work before the first weeds emerge. Evergreen lawns like fescue should be fertilized and seeded this month. Now is the time to apply lime if your soil needs it. Lime lowers the acidity of the soil. It takes time for this to occur, so application in the fall means that the ph of your soil will be ready by spring. Apply according to the bag, but a rule of thumb would be to apply 50lbs lime per 1000 sq. ft. If you use a broadleaf weed killer, wait two weeks before trying to seed fescue lawns.
Do not apply Weed and feed or pre-emergent on lawns this month. The pre-emergent can interfere with germination of fescue lawns, and can damage summer lawns that are going dormant like Bermuda.
- Trees and Shrubs:
- Trees and Shrubs
Wait until trees and shrubs are fully dormant before planting. Full dormancy lessens the issue of transplant shock. At this point most stock in the stores is old stock, so one is probably better off waiting. Do not fertilize this month also, do not prune. Look for and treat scale. Now is a good time to replace old mulch if needed. Keep mulch from piling up against the trunk of trees and bushes. Also check that limbs of low growing bushes like azaleas do not have mulch piled up. What can happen is that the limbs will root in the soil (this is called crown rooting). Crown rooting can cause drying out in the cold, dry winter. Roses could use one last treatment to kill overwintering pests.
- Annuals and Perennials:
- Annuals and Perennials
Before the plants die off this month, do a final check for insects and disease. As frost kills the plants cut them down to the ground. Wait until your perennials are fully dormant before doing this. If experiencing a warmer October than normal wait until several hard freezes are experienced. Some may wish to take cuttings of begonia, coleus, geranium and impatiens to propagate and overwinter for next spring and summer. Plant hardy flowering plants such as pansies, dianthus and chrysanthemums. Plant pansies 6-10 inches apart. Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips can be planted this month. Make sure you check the package to see if it has been cold treated. Usually one needs to place the package in the refrigerator for six weeks or so. You can always plant these bulbs next month if you forgot. This cold treatment is necessary for some bulbs in order to flower the following spring. While perennials may be planted at this time you may wish to wait. It is easier planning color and bloom time when plants are in full bloom.
Ornamental Kale and cabbages can add color and interest for late in the season.
Avoid pruning fruit trees during the month. Wait until January. The one exception to not pruning this month is cane fruits such a blackberry and raspberry. Once cold weather hits cut the older canes, but leave the newer growth. It is newer growth that will bear fruit next year. Strawberries can be planted this month, but you will need to mulch in order to protect them.
This month will see the last of the summer crop. Remove spent plants so as not to harbor pests overwinter. Fall crops such as carrots, beet, radish and collards, if planted will be harvested. Be sure that broccoli and cauliflower are harvested before they flower. Harvest root crops when the dirt begins to crack at the stem. If desired you may plant onion, cabbages and collards for harvest in early spring. With a large vegetable garden you may wish to use a cover crop. Plan ahead. Do not plant a cover crop in areas where planting is planned in January. Some cover crops, such as crimson clover need to be established before the hard frost occurs, so they need to be planted earlier in the month.
Harvest sweet potato this month. Allow them to cure for five days, and then move to a cool, dry area for storage.
As attention is needed less outdoors this month, it makes for a good time to pay attention to your indoor plants. Days have begun getting shorter some of your plants may begin to show signs of distress. Plants that become lighter in color or stretched may need more light. Look for elongated lengths between nodes. Indoor plants also will see a decrease in growth. Reduce fertilization and only water when top of the soil is dry. Low humidity as the furnace is run may be a problem. To help alleviate, mist plants with water. Do not overdo because this can cause problems with fungal disease. It is also a good time to divide and propagate houseplants which are too large or pot bound. If you have a Christmas cactus left from last year, and you wish to bring it to bloom, move it to a low light area and keep it barely moist. If you wish to force bulbs for Christmas, go ahead and order them now. Bulbs bought in the stores sometimes are not in in time to force them quickly enough to enjoy. Also, ordering them directly ensures they are true to color and type. The bulbs sold in a display box in stores usually do not match the photo on the box.
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October Tasks in the Southeast
While the number of gardening tasks required begins to decline along with the temperatures in October. There are things to do that will make for...
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