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Gardeners' calendar of October chores

Stock photo of yellow, orange and red autumn

Stock photo of yellow, orange and red autumn leaves in beautiful fall park. Credit: Fotolia / Konstantin Sutyagin

It's October, a month for apples and pumpkins, seed heads and sweaters, mulled cider and the crunch of leaves under trick-or-treaters' feet.

As we watch from indoors as the garden goes dormant, we dream and plan for the spring resurrection. But we need to get outdoors, too, and rake, plant bulbs, clear beds and -- did I mention rake? Here's a day-by-day list of chores to keep you on track.

1. If there are holes in the garden, this is a good time to fill them with new perennials.

2. Plant new trees and shrubs. If they're bare root, soak roots in water for eight hours before planting.

3. Plant dormant, one-year rhubarb crowns now, and come June, you'll be baking them into pies with strawberries.

4. Avoid the loss of precious soil by shaking off roots when yanking faded annuals from their beds.

5. For holiday blooms start paper whites now. Place bulbs, pointy end up, in a shallow bowl of gravel and just enough water to reach bulb bottoms.

6. Plant shallots in prepared beds, 2 inches below the soil's surface.

7. After curing potatoes in a humid, 50- to 60-degree spot for two weeks, store in a dry, dark, 40-degree area for use all winter.

8. Cover ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves.

9. Start planting tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths and chionodoxa. You can continue until the ground is frozen.

10. Keep mowing the grass until it stops growing.

11. Empty, clean, dry and store terra-cotta pots indoors. Leave them out, and they'll crack in the cold.

12. Use the last of the tomatoes and basil, and put up a pot of sauce for a comforting Columbus Day supper.

13. Replace summer annuals with pansies. They'll bloom all fall and return in spring.

14. Mulch carrots, leeks, parsley and Jerusalem artichokes after the first frost to extend their season well into winter.

15. Today is the average first frost date on Long Island. Though it can hit later, play it safe and bring in any remaining tender plants and crops.

16. Rake and clean up perennial beds, and discard diseased plant parts in the trash. Compost the rest.

17. You can safely relocate deciduous trees and shrubs once all their leaves have fallen.

18. Remove dead or broken tree branches now to avoid damage to property (and people!) during winter storms.

19. Gather seeds from cleome when the pods split open, and store in a paper envelope in the refrigerator, away from fruit.

20. Clear out vegetable beds, and till compost, manure and lime into the soil.

21. Disinfect tomato cages and stakes with a 10 percent bleach solution, then store for the winter.

22. Divide overgrown spring- and summer-blooming perennials.

23. Clean up around roses and cut back long whips, but save the real pruning for spring.

24. Wait until spring to cut back black-eyed Susans and coneflowers; the birds will appreciate their seed heads during winter's famine.

25. Mulch asparagus beds with 3 inches of well-rotted manure.

26. Apply potassium to the soil around roses for winter protection, but don't use nitrogen.

27. Continue watering trees through hard frost if the weather is dry. They'll soak up the moisture, which will protect them from winter damage.

28. Start a leaf pile in a corner of the yard. It will decompose into leaf mold over winter, and be ready to improve your soil in spring.

29. Hold off on mulching until the ground freezes, or you'll trap in warmth that will slow plants' dormancy and place them at risk.

30. Harvest chards, greens and kale.

31. It's Halloween! Top barren pots and window boxes with plastic skulls and other seasonal decorations to delight little ghouls and goblins.

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