Garden Detective: October chores
Plant growth has slowed, and the air has cooled, ushering in yet another cyclical season of nature. Although things are changing all around us, with perennials going dormant, trees shedding foliage, fall decorations appearing and everyone switching from shirtsleeves to sweaters, one thing remains constant: The yard needs your attention. Here's what you need to do before battening down the hatches.
1. Make applesauce and vegetable soup, and cook up the rest of the garden's produce.
2. Dig up potatoes and cure in a cool, humid spot for two weeks before eating.
3. If you haven't already, bring vacationing houseplants indoors, but rinse them first to remove insects.
4. Start planting spring-flowering bulbs. You can continue as long as soil is soft enough to dig a hole.
5. For holiday blooms start paperwhites indoors now. Place bulbs, pointy end up, in a saucer of gravel. Add just enough water to reach bulb bottoms.
6. Separate an organic garlic bulb into cloves, but don't peel. Plant cloves pointy end up in a prepared bed for harvesting next June.
7. Clean up fallen fruit, leaves and debris from around trees to avoid a rodent invasion, and remove "mummies" (shriveled fruit) from branches to prevent disease.
8. Shop for late-season bargains on perennials. Check that plants aren't root-bound before buying.
9. Cover ponds with netting to keep fallen leaves out.
10. Dig up canna and begonia tubers, clean and store. (Hold off on dahlias until leaves become frost damaged.)
11. Last call for seeding, sodding or repairing the lawn.
12. Plant new trees and shrubs now and keep well watered.
13. Plant roses when tree leaves begin changing color.
14. Clear beds and pots of annuals and replace with pansies. They'll bloom all fall and return in spring.
15. Today is the average first frost date on Long Island. Bring in the last tomatoes, and slice, bread and fry the green ones.
16. Clear out the vegetable bed and turn soil, incorporating compost, manure and dolomitic lime.
17. Disinfect tomato cages and plant supports with a 10 percent bleach solution and store for winter.
18. Plant clover in cleared-out vegetable beds and apply fast-release fertilizer. Then turn the soil in spring -- two weeks before planting -- for naturally nitrogen-rich soil.
19. Wrap burlap around newly planted evergreens to protect from damaging winter winds.
20. Sow spinach seeds in cleared beds now through Thanksgiving for an early spring harvest.
21. Plant herbaceous peonies and cut existing ones all the way to the ground.
22. Empty, clean and store terra cotta pots indoors.
23. Rake and clean up perennial beds. Place diseased plant parts in the trash and compost the rest.
24. Apply potassium (but not nitrogen) to the soil around roses to help protect them over the winter. Cut back long whips, but save the real pruning for spring.
25. Inspect trees for damage and remove dead or broken branches now so they don't create a hazard during winter storms.
26. You can safely move deciduous trees and shrubs once leaves have fallen.
27. Move quickly to plant, divide and transplant perennials before it's too late.
28. Don't apply mulch until the ground freezes.
29. Make the last lawn mowing super short (2 inches) to help prevent fungal diseases from taking hold, and leave clippings on the grass.
30. Mulch carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and parsley after frost hits and leave them in the garden for harvesting over winter.
31. Don't panic if inner needles on evergreens are brown; it's normal for the oldest ones to do that before shedding.