I like having options — from which taste of tea to drink after lunch to that course I’ll take to walk home. Gardening this month is just the same. Whether you’re after garden chores or perhaps some seasonal puttering, it is all about choosing your own route.
You can prep soil for spring planting, divide blossoms and transplant perennials, even tuck in more cool-season edibles. Alternatively, you can simply love fall’s grandeur and put off some of this year’s more tedious tasks. Let fallen leaves deliver hearty mulch for your own lawns and eliminate, for the time being, on cutting spent summer and fall crops. Instead, take some time and watch the leaves change. It is your backyard, so appreciate it. Here’s what you can do in your backyard this October.
Find your October backyard checklist:
California | Central Plains | Great Lakes | Mid-Atlantic | Northeast
Pacific Northwest | Rocky Mountains | Southeast | Southwest | Texas
California. Garden editor Bill Marken suggests potting shrubs and trees to get a permanent and festive seasonal touch.
“Pomegranates symbolize fall in Mediterannean climates,” Marken writes. “Like ancient Christmas ornaments, the fat, round reddish fruits hang heavy on spindly branches together with little leaves turning an autumn yellow. To get a container, look for a dwarf variety such as ‘Nana’, showing fall foliage and tiny reddish fruits if you’re lucky.”
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Donna Lynn – Landscape Designer
Southwest. Water management remains important this season. “Continue to monitor and reset the timers on any controllers you might have, especially in the low and middle zones. As temperatures fall, decrease the water required,” writes New Mexico landscape designer David Cristiani.
“In case you are planning a landscape to get a barren area or for a place outside plant roots, create water harvesting chances to gain plantings and a few visual interest by installing subtle basins, swales and berms away from constructions, where lush plantings are needed,” he says.
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J. Peterson Garden Design
Texas. It is not too late for fall edibles. “Cool-season veggies are so plentiful and nutritious, so try to tuck in a few new ones this season,” writes landscape designer Jenny Peterson. “Broccoli, turnips, lettuce, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, cabbage, collards and other greens can be planted today. If you are anticipating a hard freeze, consider adding some row cover to protect your veggies but otherwise these crops will take the crisper weather stride and give you months of create.”
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Jocelyn H. Chilvers
Rocky Mountains. “Planning to put in a new vegetable or flower garden next spring? Now’s a fantastic time to prepare the dirt,” writes Colorado landscape designer Jocelyn Chilvers. “Use organic adjustments to boost water- and – nutrient-holding capacity and to improve aeration and water stream. Adding alterations now allows you to work in the backyard while the soil is relatively dry, thus preventing the possibility of soil compaction that can occur if you try to perform it during the rainy months of spring. Come springtime the dirt will be prepared to plant.”
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Northwest. “Refresh your container gardens with a selection of winter-hardy evergreen shrubs, perennials and seasonal colour stains,” says landscape designer Karen Chapman.
For a festive fall arrangement, she says that “little conifers, bright spurge (Euphorbia spp) and evergreen sedums are simple candidates for containers — especially when dressed up with a couple cheerful pansies.”
It is also time to plant spring-blooming bulbs — in containers. “Dwarf daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses are simply a couple of the options,” Chapman says.
Revealed: ‘Princess Irene’ tulips are stunning with ‘Peach Flambe’ coral bells (Heuchera).
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Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens
Central Plains. Wondering what to do with that dropped foliage? “Do not rake leaves; mulch them with a mower,” writes Nebraska garden consultant Benjamin Vogt. “Those finely ground leaves are free fertilizer for lawns. If you’d rather rake, toss the leaves to garden beds over winter and early spring, then they’ll break down completely and add rich topsoil. Perhaps you’ll even want to ‘steal’ unwanted bags of these from the neighbors’ driveways.”
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Great Lakes. “While the fall colour often continues into November, the big show comes from October, as revealed with this sumac (Rhus copallina),” writes Illinois garden coach Barbara Pintozzi. “Foliage’s dramatic color change is the result of cool nights and bright days.”
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Northeast. Transplant and divide plants on mild, cloudy days. “Rejuvenate ornamental grasses through branch,” writes Vermont landscape consultant Charlotte Albers. “It is a big job — especially if they’re big clumps of grass (Miscanthus spp) — so be sure that you own a pruning saw for cutting through the dense root fibers. Discard the middle of plant and cut the outer parts into segments for replanting.”
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Mid-Atlantic. “Herbs are plentiful all fall, but they’ll disappear sooner than you can say ‘Jack’ when frost comes,” says garden author Amy Renea. “Harvest mint, lemon balm, rosemary and other people to keep them for winter. Dry the blossoms, chop and freeze them or use them in soaps for new herbs.”
Renea suggests “making your own tea mixes for winter. I combine stevia (revealed) with various herbs for exceptional and cheap teas. So long as I have new herbs, however, I’ll brew up a batch every single evening before my luck runs out.”
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Gardening with Confidence®
Southeast. When prepping the garden for winter, “Do not be so quick to clean up,” says North Carolina backyard author Helen Yoest. “The remains of this summer and fall garden give shelter, cover and food for wildlife, while also adding winter interest to garden beds.”
Revealed here “is a praying mantis egg case I discovered one year while cutting my backyard,” she continues. “It was at this point I learned to slow down my fall pruning before the spring, when the leaves were cleared away and overwintering wildlife was easier to view.”
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