An October to-do list for your garden

Fall is officially here and what a glorious one it has been so far. There has been just enough rain to green up the lawns and enough sun in between to keep the ground workable and the plants growing. The forecast for October sounds like it may be similar so that should give us another 30 days of good gardening weather before we get serious about “putting the garden to bed.” Here are some things to focus on for October.

Watering: Don’t put that hose away just yet. One way to help our plants survive the winter is to make sure they don’t go into it drought stressed. If the top two inches of your soil is dry then get out the hose and soak the beds and lawn at least one time this month (maybe twice if the weather forecasters are correct).

Lawns: This is your last chance to rejuvenate the lawn. Applying an organic fertilizer now will help keep your lawn green all winter and into early spring. I have had Red Thread in my lawn all season long and have tried to ignore it but it is only going to get worse as we move into fall and winter. Bonide’s Infuse will help control it in one easy application. For organic gardeners, try Serenade.

Roses: It’s time to let them rest, so no more fertilizer. Leave a few blooms on to form hips. Don’t do any hard pruning now. Once the nights get into the 30s, we can then do some serious mulching and pruning. We’ll give you more guidance in November.

Perennials: There are still some late bloomers that look great: asters, mums, Japanese anemones, cone flowers, Russian sage, sedum and toad lilies, to name just a few. Ornamental grasses are just spectacular right now. Enjoy the last blooms of the season and don’t rush to tidy things up. There are lots of seeds in those old flower heads that the birds will enjoy. Wait until the first frost to really start cleaning up the perennial beds. In fact, you can even wait until mid to late February to do it.

Containers: It’s not too late to overhaul your containers for the winter. Replant with hardy perennials, ground covers and even shrubs for the winter. For color, nothing beats pansies and violas.

Bulbs: This is the month to get serious about planting bulbs. With some careful planning you can have blooming bulbs from January until June, sometimes all in the same pot. Like the industry marketing says, “Dig. Drop. Done.” It just doesn’t get any easier than that.

Vegetables: Plant fall crops now and control winter weeds by either laying-on a one inch layer of compost or by planting a cover crop. Building a cloche (a temporary greenhouse-type structure) will also help to produce a successful winter crop. Root and leaf crops can both be planted this month. Garlic is a must to plant in the fall.

Fall is for planting: Just a gentle reminder that we can plant almost year-round in the northwest, so don’t be afraid to plunk a few more treasures into your gardens before you put the shovel away for the winter. Get a jump on spring by planting now.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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