October is for pulling on a sweater and heading outdoors with a rake. It's for cleaning up the remnants of summer and observing and evaluating so we can plan for spring.
If there are holes in the garden, this is a good time to fill them with shrubs or perennials. Many mistakes are easily fixed during the season, too: If beds and borders aren't looking as good as planned, move them. Then hunker down with a steaming bowl of vegetable soup made from the last of the season's harvest.
1. Get final lawn repair and seeding done before it's too late.
2. Plant unpeeled organic garlic cloves pointy end up in the garden for harvesting next June.
3. Move tender tropicals and vacationing houseplants indoors, but first gently rinse with water to remove insects.
4. Dig up, clean and store begonia and Cana tubers. But leave dahlias alone until frost has killed the foliage.
5. Visit a botanic garden or arboretum for inspiration, then plant some fall color in your garden.
6. Harvest potatoes. Set them to cure at 50-60 degrees for two weeks. They'll keep all winter in a dry, dark spot.
7. For holiday blooms start paperwhites now. Place bulbs, pointy end up, in a shallow container of gravel. Add water to reach bulb bottoms.
8. Plant new trees and shrubs and keep well watered.
9. Plant rhubarb; it's perennial.
10. Begin planting spring-flowering bulbs. You can continue to do so until the ground freezes.
11. Prepare a bed for peas and spinach so you can sow seeds in early spring.
12. Plant roses when tree leaves begin changing color.
13. When vines die back, harvest winter squash.
14. Replace faded annuals with pansies. They'll bloom now and be among the first to return in spring.
15. Bring in any remaining herbs and summer crops. Frost is looming.
16. Cover ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves.
17. Clear out vegetable beds, till soil and incorporate compost, manure and lime into soil.
18. Mulch carrots, leeks, parsley and Jerusalem artichokes after the first frost to extend their season well into winter.
19. Cut peonies down to the ground.
20. Protect new evergreens with burlap.
21. Rake and clean up perennial beds. Discard diseased plant parts in the trash.
22. Apply potassium around roses to increase winter resistance, but don't apply nitrogen. Cut back long whips to protect from wind damage.
23. Remove dead or broken tree branches now so they don't create a hazard during winter storms.
24. Relocate deciduous trees and shrubs after they have lost their leaves.
25. Prepare for new beds by smothering grass now: Cover with cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, and mulch over to keep in place.
26. Rake leaves into piles and run over them with a mower, then compost.
27. Clean, sharpen and store garden tools so they'll be ready when you need them again.
28. Cut down bee balm, blanket flower, bearded iris, columbines and daylilies.
29. Leave dried black-eyed Susans and Echinacea in the garden; seed heads will feed birds over winter.
30. Clean and store terra cotta pots indoors; they'll crack if left outside 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.