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October’s Gardening Chores

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October’s Gardening Chores

Autumn is a great time to finish up your fall chores. Here is a list of some October gardening chores and tasks you can and should tackle this month:

In The Garden

  • Potted plants need to be re-potted especially the tropicals in outdoor containers. Add new potting mix and increase the pot by one size to keep them happy all winter. This will be the last feeding until March. Make sure to check for any critters and pests before bringing anything inside, and consider applying an insecticidal soap to the soil after re-potting so it leaches down into the new pot.
  • Lawns are hungry as well. October is the time for your second application of fertilizer with a “winterizer” type on the label, one with an NPK (nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium) of around 28-0-14. New lawns, after you have cut them three times, can be treated for weeds, and yes, you are feeding the weeds too, so just be patient.
  • Bulbs. It’s also time to plant those spring blooming bulbs. Pay attention to the planting depth as listed on the packages. Dividing perennials is a great way to make your beds fuller and, if you have too many of one thing, seek out another neighborhood gardener and swap — another great way to extend those beds, and make new garden buddies.
  • Pest Control. This is the time when grubs are hatching, and moles are getting active. With moles, you also most likely have voles, another garden pest. Remember: moles are the meat eaters, where voles are the vegetarians. Treating for grubs now will eliminate future root destruction by the voles.
  • Vegetable Plants. Keep pulling up the summer veggies as they ripen, and make room for fall crops as they die off. Composting those “spent” plants will help your success next spring.
  • Frosts. Some areas have had some early frosts and freezes, even snow. If you still have tender plants in the ground producing for you be prepared to cover them on those nights you have a hard freeze. Usually if you water them, and cover in the evening, the humidity inside will prevent frost burn on the leaves.
  • Gardening your soil is a must. After pulling out all the spent plants, add some amendments such as compost or manure along with mulched leaves and grass clippings. Let it all “cook” over the winter. And if you need to plant a cover crop, now is the time. A favorite is clover, as it helps correct any nitrogen issues.
  • Mulch. As leaves start falling, simply mulch them in place — the composting leaf litter will benefit your soil greatly. As leaves start to accumulate, and bagging is a must, use those shredded leaves in your beds, which gives you free soil and nutrients!
  • Pruning. October is good for pruning most deciduous trees (trees whose leaves fall off). After the leaves have dropped, pruning is easier, because you can see the “skeleton” of the tree, and they are in a dormancy period. Wait on the Crape Myrtles until March, and roses until February. Evergreens can be pruned now, and most folks feed them lightly after pruning, as well as in the late winter (around March). Camelias, Daphne, Sarcacocca, and any other winter bloomers, should wait until after bloom, but you can feed them now, to give them a boost.

In The Shed

  • Garden tool maintenance is a must. Sanding, sharpening, and oiling will preserve your tools for many seasons. Make sure to dip tools in a bleach/water solution (one part bleach to three parts water) if you had fungus issues, otherwise you will still have those issues next season. Let them dry, then spray with oil. Which oil to use? Boiled linseed oil, tung oil, motor oil, lamp oil, or cooking oil. Boiled linseed and tung oil are probably the best choices, but you can use whatever you have available.
  • Power equipment. It’s important to get those tools cleaned up and oil and filters changed, blades sharpened, add fuel additives, check pull chords, tires, lights, etc., before putting them away. When the seed catalogs start hitting the mailbox in February, you won’t have time to worry about your tools!

Other Maintenance Tasks

October is also a good time to check on your winter prep home maintenance, as well. Caulking, testing the heat systems, roofing repairs, checking gutters, pruning limbs away from doors and windows, testing and servicing generators, repairing cracks in sidewalks and driveways, just to name a few.

The great thing about getting these fall chores done early is it allows you to get out and enjoy the autumn leaves and any warmer temperatures of an Indian Summer.

56 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 10.20.16 at 3:26 pm }

Hi Carolyn Sisk: here’s some good information on Azaleas: http://www.southernliving.com/home-garden/gardens/azalea-plants

2 Carolyn Sisk { 10.18.16 at 2:32 pm }

I live in Virginia. when do you fertilize azaleas? and if you prune them later than July, will it make a big difference in the bloom in the spring? Also what about rhodendrums (misspelled) Prune or no? Fertilize? thanks

3 Susan Higgins { 10.20.16 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Mike: Regarding your rose bushes, we have some good information here that you may find helpful: http://farmersalmanac.wpengine.com/home-garden/2015/06/01/plant-a-rose-garden-like-a-pro-even-if-youre-not/ And if you would like our Best Days guide for gardening tasks, you can access that here: http://farmersalmanac.wpengine.com/calendar/gardening/

4 Mike { 10.18.16 at 1:54 pm }

I live in Western Colorado. When is the best time to trim my rose bushes?

5 Susan Higgins { 10.20.16 at 3:32 pm }

Hi Sandy Miles, here’s some good information on burning bushes: http://snip.ly/fzd1w And you can access our Best Days gardening tasks here: http://farmersalmanac.wpengine.com/calendar/gardening/

6 David4 { 10.19.16 at 5:21 am }

They are an invasive, non-native weed and shouldn’t be in your garden at all. However you can prune it at anytime because it is a weed. I’d wait until the leaves drop now then hack it back more than you think you should.

7 Sandy Miles { 10.18.16 at 12:36 pm }

I need to trim back my burning bushes.When is the best time to do this ?

8 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 8:10 pm }

Kelli
Within 6 weeks after bloom. Make sure all cuts are at 45 degrees “outbound” so the new shoots don’t re-grow towards the inside, don’t want future canes rubbing inside. Watch your “leaf sets” as you prune as well, most times, the next 2 leaf buds will shoot out as new limbs, so prune as you want it to grow. Where they aim, they will go!!!

9 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 8:02 pm }

Roy Hamacher
I am so sorry I saw this so late.
Shoot for Labor Day in the future.. BUT!! There’s always a BUT!!
I know you guys out there are getting snow now in parts, wait until you know it’s going to snow again, and the ground is clear, sow your seed.
Snow is thermal, full of Nitrogen, wet, obviously, and the slow melting will keep the seed bedded in. I do this every Winter if there is a spot that didn’t take in these new homes I move into, and there it is, sometimes 3 snowfalls later. But, there it is!

10 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:54 pm }

Inna Lea McDonough
Kevin@Kevinsgarden.com to send pics

11 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:53 pm }

Inna Lea McDonough
I had the same issue a few years ago with a house I moved in to. After the first spring bloom, I did a massive refurbishment on those 3 and 4 inch diameter trunks. Was a hard job, but was worth it. Came up gorgeous. Get it done before July 4th, they set bud then for next year. Make sure you figure the “average” branch spread before pruning. Then feed with Holly Tone, per the dosage of the actual shrub before you pruned. That’s where the feeder roots are.

12 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:46 pm }

Beverly,
Yes, you are right
They bloom, for most, on last years dormant (dead) wood. Endless Summer blooms on both, old and new. Holly Tone in the early Spring, when you see the new shoots coming.

13 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:41 pm }

Paula,
Most rose pruning is done in the very early Spring, late Winter, with the blooming of the forsythia as a signal to get moving. I do mine in February in Va. If you don’t have forsythia, watch for when the leaf buds begin to swell on your rose plants, meaning the bumps on the canes get larger and reddish in color. So late February to mid March.
Always make sure to prune below the Rose Hips, that swelling in the stalks, that’s the seed it produced, yes, it’s the herbal thing, “Rose Hip”…
Frequent deadheading during the blooming season will continue your show. Make sure you prune those spent blooms just above a 5 leaf set, that’s the blooming set. You will see it. 3 leaves, 3 leaves, OH!! 5 leaves… That’s where you snip off the stalk while blooms die.. Have fun with them.. No mulching on the base of the stalk, leave it bare.
What type Roses are we talking? Not much difference in timing.

14 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:25 pm }

Carl,
I love the repeat fruiting Raspberies too, a little time, maintenance, and BOOM!! Filling zip loc bags again for the freezer!!

15 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:22 pm }

Tammy,
What variety? Encore, Bloomin’ Again, or standard April?
Encore, should be pruned after the Spring bloom, these are your full Sun, 3 time blooming types.
Bloonin’ Again and standard one time Spring blooming azaleas, after the bloom and before July 4th. Hope that helps for future gardening chores.

16 Kevin { 11.14.15 at 7:18 pm }

Wendy.
Sorry for the delay.
In the summer, after the blackberries are done fruiting, you will need to do clean up blackberry pruning. Blackberries only produce fruit on canes that are two years old, so once a cane has produced berries, it will never produce berries again. Cutting these spent canes off the blackberry bush will encourage the plant to produce more fist year canes, which in turn, will mean more fruit producing canes next year.
All blackberries have perennial roots and crowns, so they will continue to grow for many years, but the canes are biennial, which means they have a two-year life cycle.

17 Wendy { 10.20.15 at 10:05 pm }

When is a good time to cut back blackberry plants? They are out of control. Indiana

18 Wendy { 10.20.15 at 10:03 pm }

When is a good time cut back blackberry plants? They are out of control. Indiana

19 Tammy { 10.19.15 at 9:16 am }

When do I prune azaleas bushes back

20 Carl { 10.18.15 at 5:43 pm }

This time of year (October) I prune my red raspberries too. The following spring they explode with berries,and a second “crop” around the end of September. I do do some soil prep near where they grow, and transplant new young growth into those areas.

21 Paula Downey { 10.18.15 at 4:30 pm }

I live in Helena, Montana and would like to know when I should prune my roses. I have never had roses before but the house we bought has at least a dozen rose bushes. I could uses some help with how to care for them.

22 Beverly { 10.18.15 at 3:59 pm }

I live in western PA and have a question about my hydragena bush. Am I correct in assuming that even after the frost gets my plant I still do not cut it down and it will releaf in the spring on the dead looking branches? Thanks for your input.

23 Inna Lea McDonough { 10.18.15 at 3:41 pm }

My Azaleas have been so neglected that they are taller than the roof of my single-level house. Under the foliage they are very woody, as they are many many years old. I would like to cut them back to below window level, (they cover 2 windows), but I’m afraid I will be left with only the wood part. I wish I could send pictures. How can I save these?

24 KLF { 10.18.15 at 3:39 pm }

Hi, quick question about pruning. We planted grapes and black raspberries in the Spring of this year.
How should I go about pruning these or so I even need to prune the first year of growth. They didn’t produce this year, but did a lot of growing, particularly the raspberries.

25 Roy Hamacher { 10.18.15 at 3:29 pm }

Is this a good time to plants grass seed. Colorado

26 Kelli { 10.18.15 at 2:20 pm }

Was wondering what time of the year should you prune a lilac bush? I live in Indiana if that makes a difference.

27 Composted Leaf Mold Starts in Your Own Yard | Kevinthegarden's Blog { 11.16.14 at 9:00 am }
28 Kevin { 10.23.14 at 5:14 am }

Hey chrissybee86 ,
What do you want to do with it? And, what kind? If it’s the Southern tropical type, if you want to over Winter it, you can. Cut it back to about 18″ tall and rake away any leaf material. Start your digging about a foot away from the center, you will probably be cutting into some fine root mass, but just keep it neat all the way around. Have a big pot ready, at least 20 to 24 inches dia. make sure to put about 2 inches of gravel, crushed drink cans, Styrofoam peanuts, whatever in the bottom for drainage. Gently coax it out and into the pot and fill in any voids with new potting mix. Treat like a houseplant, no feeding, just treat for bugs before bringing in. What do you do with your after Christmas Poinsettias? I wait until after frost and plant in full sun, in the ground. They get about 5 feet tall or better by next October. Beautiful Annual tree. And did I say BEAUTIFUL?

29 chrissybee86 { 10.21.14 at 11:46 am }

what do I do with my hibiscus plants that are planted in the ground. Im in KY thanks!

30 RNicklas { 10.18.14 at 4:15 pm }

Regarding Moles/Voles – had been overwhelmed with them for years!! Got a Jack Russell/Dachhound dog two years ago. The first winter our yard looked like Caddy Shack, but from then on ….. no moles, no voles. The yard is now the best looking it had ever been. He eliminated everyone and is always on the lookout for another. Best solution I have found!!

31 Kevin Cutlip { 10.18.14 at 8:14 am }

Hey Ali, again!!
Bt…… Most times you can only find it as a Mosquito control in the “dunk” form for water gardens, BUT, you can take one, break it into quarter pieces, put a piece in a spray bottle and let it dissolve for about a week, and use it as a topical spray. Works great for Cabbage worms and Fungus Gnats in your seed starting trays as well. I found it only once in a granular form, on deep clearance, and bought 4 for my seed starting racks in the grow room. No more swatting!!

32 Kevin Cutlip { 10.18.14 at 8:01 am }

Hey June Penn,
Usually you would need to prune Spring only blooming Azaleas by July 4th, they set next years blooms shortly after. The “Bloom-n-again” series, twice a year, and the “Encores”, 3 times, do well if you prune just after each bloom.
Gardenias? Which variety? I never pruned my Chuck Hayes, It’s crazy in it’s own world and HUGE!, but the smaller, less cold hardy types like August Beauty, Vaca Valley, Radicans, used to get a light selective pruning before they finished so the newer shoots would be hardened off before frost.
LOL! My predictions for weather are based mostly on Phenology and 30 year cyclic Jet Stream patterns for where I live here in Richmond Va. We are still in a Polar Vortex pattern, it never stopped all year since last October. Unseasonably cool Summer nights this past year, were actually, pockets of cold coming out of Canada. Same 7 day cycles of precipitation, yeah, it’s still locked in there. There is a strange reason for it though. Care to guess what a part is?

33 Kevin Cutlip { 10.18.14 at 7:43 am }

Hey CKennedy,
Mums do best if you don’t but the first ones you see!! LOL!! They are coming out way too early these days at the big box stores, and most won’t make it, especially if you are in an upper zone (7 or more North) My Mums from years ago are blooming now, been about two weeks. I am in 7. When they exhaust themselves, mine usually by Thanksgiving, I leave them until late Winter, then snap off the dead stalks. They start shooting back up around May, but you have to remember where they are. I have been at clients homes around that time, and they thought they were weeds.
Prepping the hole is like any other container plant, twice as wide, and about 2 inches less deep than the original soil in the pot. Break up that root ball, they were forced at the nursery and are choking with Phosphorous to make mutant blooms!!

34 Ali { 10.17.14 at 11:50 am }

Hi Kevin! You give wonderful gardening tips! Can you give me a tip on how to get rid of those pesky little caterpillars that eat my Creeping Jenny?

35 Brovel Fall Gardening Tips | Brovel Push Broom Debris Dust Pans { 10.17.14 at 9:19 am }

[…] Finally, fall flower gardening will bring you a wealth of color when spring arrives! If you are not going to plant your bulbs, they must be stored in a cool, dry place like your refrigerator or basement. If you live in a climate that is cooler, October is a great time to complete your planting.  In warmer climates, late November would be better. The eye catching colors of spring are most commonly found in hyacinths, crocus, iris, tulips, and daffodils. Another great way to keep your garden blooming is to divide perennials and also begin planting perennial seeds for next spring. Make sure that you are planting in a choice area for the type of flower you have purchased. For example, daffodils do their best growing in well-drained, moist soil in an area that has full to partial sunlight. When you plan well in the fall, you will be sure to reap great benefits through every season of the year, and Brovel Dust Pans can help! For more tips, click here! […]

36 Kevin Cutlip { 10.16.14 at 3:24 pm }

Hi Nancy,
Yes ma’am you can make insecticidal soap using a teaspoon of Dawn Dish soap to a standard size spray bottle. Make sure to soak the soil, and water in to leach your home made product down into the pot. Then treat the leaves. As long as you have the light indoors, you will have blooms. Just make sure it isn’t positioned near a forced air heat vent where the heat would blow on it, and if near a window, no drafts.

37 Kevin Cutlip { 10.16.14 at 3:19 pm }

Hey Okeywiser,
Pruning grapes can be intimidating, until you just go for it. Here is a link that will ease your mind and promote your ability. I have also sent some of my grape growing clients to a vineyard, to see in person… Then, it all makes sense to them.
Have fun with them, the reward is great and worth waiting for, like growing Asparagus….
http://www.gardenguides.com/102388-prune-concord-grapes.html

38 Kevin Cutlip { 10.16.14 at 3:12 pm }

Hey Tara,
Most Hydrangeas bloom on last years dormant wood, you know, the dead looking sticks. They’re not dead, but dormant. If, as you found, you cut them back, there is a pretty green bush next Summer. I leave mine, until after they have all re-leafed the next season, and any that don’t, they’re the ones I cut out. Leave them alone, you will see next year, new green shoots on the dormant wood.

39 Kevin Cutlip { 10.16.14 at 3:05 pm }

Hey Tina Marie, Gloria B, and Cindi B!!
Wow, Mole season won’t quit lately! Moles, Voles, Grubs. If you have one you have the other.. Getting rid of Grubs is a timing thing. Early September, if you are applying a Grub Control. It’s when they hatch, and are closer to the soil line then. Moles tunneling in a straight-ish line, just passing thru. In a big swirly pattern, they found grubs. Voles, live in the Mole tunnels and eat your roots. Skunks are heavy Grub eaters as well. Those small golf ball size cone shaped divots in the beds and lawn? Skunks. Don’t believe me? Take out the trash at 3 a.m., you will meet! LOL!!! To deter moles, without buying those high dollar sonic devices, sink glass soda/beer bottles in the ground every 15 feet, leaving about an inch above ground. As the wind blows across the opening, that train whistle noise dives the Moles out. They hear with their skulls, and can’t feed with the vibration.

40 Cindi B { 10.16.14 at 12:41 pm }

Gloria B Online search for solar mole chaser
Used them successfully in the garden

41 Nancy { 10.16.14 at 10:55 am }

I have a 5 foot tall hibiscus full of buds ready to bloom but the nights are getting too cold to keep it outside on my patio–how far to prune to fit into my house–and can I make my own insectide soap for the soil?

42 Gloria B { 10.16.14 at 7:38 am }

We too have been fighting moles for a couple of years!
Recently we found out about some poison worms found online. Some may not like this idea but we were fed up and tired of filling holes and tunnels! They ate and were gone in less than 24 hours!

43 Tina Marie { 10.16.14 at 3:56 am }

I have been battling moles in my yard for many years. We have tried several different treatments, suggestions and homemade remedies to no avail. Any suggestions to winterize the yard to get rid of the grubs that attract those pesky moles and then what should I do to get rid of the moles? Tired of fighting them!!

44 Okeywisor { 10.15.14 at 11:57 pm }

I am a 1st time grape (concord) grower in PA .
Should i prune back my vines? How soon? And how short?

45 Kevin Cutlip { 10.15.14 at 11:51 pm }

Hey Ali,
Yep, and thanks for the reminder, especially for newly planted live goods.

46 tara { 10.15.14 at 11:50 pm }

Hi! I live in NY and we have hydrangea bushes and aren’t sure if we prune now or ater the bloom ne,t summer. We cut all the woody stems down early this summer before it bloomed and we ended up with no blooms at all.

47 Kevin Cutlip { 10.15.14 at 11:48 pm }

Hey Sheila Morrison
Typically you would prune them in early Spring, after any danger of frost, but, damaged would be anytime. Sometimes, “Dwarf” isn’t small, it refers to slow growth, up to whatever feet!! Then again, It sounds like it’s a very happy tree!!
Keep pickin!
Kevin

48 Kevin Cutlip { 10.15.14 at 11:11 pm }

Hey Curt T. and Irish,
10-10-10 is my all time favorite for its, even ratio, like in September when I re-seed, I hit it twice, 20-20-20. Most “Starter” fert’s are around 20-27-8, and “Winterizers around the ratio I suggested, because 16-4-8 is hard to come by these days, which would also be hit twice at a 32-8-16 ratio. Up, down, all around right? Also, by suggesting the ratio, not the label, buying by the NPK and not the label, there is $$ saved. Most vendors are dropping the Phosphorus in their bagged goods except for “Starters”. The N and K are constantly consumed, where P is in the soil for about a year. So they still have to say “0” P.. See?

49 Kevin Cutlip { 10.15.14 at 10:55 pm }

Hey Beader Bee!
Dusty Miller, Gazania, Zinnias, Snapdragon, Begonias, and Pansies, Celosia, Coleus. Maybe even some Creeping Sedums for fill and an anchor for Spring/Summer. There are also a few dwarf Winter blooming Evergreens like Kinnikinnick, and Creeping Sarcococca. I had some Zone 9 people lose plantings because of last years Polar Vortex freezes, so be on the look out again this year. Hmm, 2′ x 24’… Nice place for even a couple of semi-dwarf Crape Myrtles and prune to a small tree form? I’d give it a try, kinda do a “bonzai” with them as specimen plants.
Kevin

50 Curt T. { 10.15.14 at 9:14 pm }

Why not use Hyponex 10-10-10 for your fertilizer? More even balance of nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium.

51 Irish { 10.15.14 at 7:01 pm }

Are you certain you mean around 28-0-14 NPK (nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium)? That would be 0 P…which would just make it an NK fertilizer. Thanks –

52 June Penn { 10.15.14 at 6:29 pm }

I live in North East Texas and needing to trim/cut back azalea’s and gardina’s is it too late, you have predicted a very cold winter for us according to Farmer’s Almanac?

53 CKennedy { 10.15.14 at 6:22 pm }

how and when do you plant the fall mums? every year i plant them and they just die and never bloom again.

54 Sheila Morrison { 10.15.14 at 10:09 am }

When is it okay to prune Orange trees? Mine has gotten enormous and it’s supposed to be a miniature tree. It looks like a banner year for oranges, I’ll probably get 3 bushels from one tree!

From Healthy in Florida 🙂

55 Ali { 10.15.14 at 9:32 am }

You forgot to mention watering trees and perennials.

56 Beader Bee { 10.13.14 at 2:31 pm }

Just took out my lawn (drought) and have kept 24′ X 2′ as flower area in front of fenced flower garden, since I am in zone 9, what can I plant for fall and spring color? I was thinking of glads. and Iris for spring, but want some sort of bloom most of fall/winter. Any ideas? Literally a blank slate of garden area… and I’ve fed the dirt, even tiered it so ready for?????
Thank You in advance.

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