October is a busy month in the garden. Its the close of the gardening season and the more work I do now, hopefully, will eliminate some work for me in the hustle and bustle of spring. I have a check list that is always expanding and changing, which is one reason I love gardening so much, the constant change keeps things interesting. So here is my October Garden To Do List for me here in Cincinnati Zone 6, hopefully I will get it all done, if not, my yard will forgive me.
-Be extra vigilant cleaning up under fruit trees, as fallen fruit and foliage allowed to overwinter invites added troubles next season. So will mummies (shriveled fruit hanging on the trees).
-Make sure that your tree is watered well into mid-October so that the tree goes into the winter with a good moisture supply. To know that you have watered sufficiently, place a pan or dish under the tree and water until the container accumulates 5-8 cm (2-3 in.) of water. This amount will water the trees deeply down into the root zone, whereas less water will only dampen the soil close to the surface.
-Rake fallen leaves from under fruit trees and put them in areas away from healthy fruit trees. This prevents leaf-borne diseases from recurring. It also reduces habitat for mice, which can be destructive to fruit trees. Cutting the grass around the base of the tree has a similar benefit.
–Be sure to water trees now through hard frost if your conditions are dry, so that they enter dormancy in a well-hydrated state. Evergreens (needled ones and broadleaf types like rhododendron, too) are particularly vulnerable to desiccation and winterburn otherwise.
-Evergreens will continue to show some browning or yellowing of needles this month and next. The oldest, innermost ones typically shed after a few years on the tree.
–Pay special attention to areas to cleanup around peonies, roses and other flowers that are prone to fungal diseases; don’t leave any debris in place. Cut back Peony to the ground after first frost leaving a 2” stalk and discard. Do not compost your Peonies, because botrytis blight (also called gray mold), a fungal disease that affects peonies, sometimes survives the composting process.
–Cannas, Dahlias, Elephant Ears and any tender bulb-like things need to be dug carefully for indoor storage. Once frost blackens the foliage, cut back the tops to 6 inches and dig carefully, then brush or wash off soil and let dry for two weeks or so to cure. Stash in a dry spot like unheated basement or crawl space around 40-50 degrees, in boxes or pots filled with bark chips or peat moss.
–Don’t dead head all of your perennials, biennials and annuals if you want to collect seed or wish to let them self-sow for next year’s show. Collecting seed heads in a paper bag and storing in a cool dry place will give you a chance over winter to harvest your seeds and start plants in spring.
–Cut back all bulbs that will be staying in the ground. I keep my Gladiolus in the ground here and they seem to over winter just fine. I keep a light layer of mulched leaves to help protect them from any hard freezes we may have. I also take this time to move any that have found themselves where I don’t want them.
-Transplant any plants that have reseed where you don’t want them, making sure to give them a good drink after. I am moving, thyme, bachelor’s button, yarrow and coreopsis.
Weed, Weed, Weed! An ounce of prevention now, will pay off in the spring.
-LAST CALL FOR BULB ORDERS. Don’t put it off, you will kick your self in the spring, wishing you hadn’t.
-Cut and process any herbs you want to dry to have on hand over the winter.
-Pull and plant herbs in pots that you want to overwinter
-Plant your last lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Also plant onion sets and garlic.
–Weed and pull all spent vegetables, cut them up a bit with a pruning shears or shred, to speed decomposition in the compost pile
-After you have cleared all plants and weeded your beds throw a top layer of compost to sit over the winter.
–Make sure that your electric in your coop is in working order, you will need to keep their water from freezing.
–Put up any wind barriers. I am using a bamboo fencing along the back of the run where the wind is the worst.
-Check fencing and coop for any repairs. Make sure that everything is in good repair and that neither the rain nor wind can penetrate. Chickens really don’t like the wet (the lack of webbed feet is a real giveaway!), so if your house is damp then now is the time to think about repair or replacement.
-All predators are at their hungriest during the winter months and will go to extreme lengths to tuck into a tasty chicken dinner. Many will regard traditional chicken wire merely as a trifling inconvenience and more of an opportunity to work up an appetite than anything else. So check that your Run is free from rot, areas of weakness and even the tiniest of gaps
–I will continue to feed them until the no longer take the sugar water I offer.
– I also put a reducer in their entrance to keep out drafts and any mice who might try to make a nest in a nice warm bee box over winter.
– Some recommend putting tar paper around your bee boxes to help with insulation through the cold winter months.