Fall leaves of a large maple on the grounds of...

Fall leaves of a large maple on the grounds of Westbury Friends School, which is designated one of the National Wildlife Federation's Schoolyard Habitat Sites. Credit: NEWSDAY / Jim Peppler

Although it felt like autumn for much of summer, fall has officially arrived. October is a month for apples and seed heads, trick-or-treaters and the crunch of leaves under our feet (and in our rakes)!

And as we pull on cozy sweaters and switch from iced tea to hot cider, we watch as the garden goes dormant and get to work on next season by placing orders and planting trees, shrubs and those promising spring bulbs.

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

2. Separate an organic garlic bulb into cloves, but don't peel. Plant cloves pointy end up in a prepared bed for harvesting in June.

3. Bring in houseplants, but first rinse leaves to avoid bringing insects indoors.

4. Cover ponds with netting to prevent fallen leaves from mucking up the water.

5. Get final lawn repair, seeding and renovations done before it's too late.

6. Dig up canna and begonia tubers, clean and store now. But hold off on dahlias until frost has killed the foliage.

7. Start planting spring-flowering bulbs now. You can stack early, mid- and late bloomers in the soil for a progression of blooms in the same spot. Learn more.

8. Plant new trees and shrubs now and keep well watered.

9. Plant rhubarb; it's perennial.

10. Shop for late-season bargains on perennials. Check that plants aren't root-bound before buying.

11. Prepare a bed for peas and spinach for sowing seeds in early spring.

12. Empty, clean and store terra cotta pots indoors.

13. Use the last of the fresh tomatoes and basil, and put on a pot of sauce in honor of Christopher Columbus.

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. Although it can hit later, bring in any remaining herbs and summer crops.

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

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

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

19. Protect newly planted evergreens with burlap wrap.

20. Plant herbaceous peonies and cut existing ones all the way to the ground.

21. Plant roses when tree leaves begin changing color.

22. Rake and clean up perennial beds. Place diseased plant parts in the trash and compost the rest.

23. Apply potassium to the soil around roses for winter protection, but don't use nitrogen. Cut back long whips, but save the real pruning for spring.

24. Inspect trees for damage and remove dead or broken branches now so they don't create a hazard during winter storms.

25. Don't worry if you notice the inner needles on evergreen branches turning brown; it's normal for the oldest ones to do that before shedding.

26. Prepare for new beds by smothering grass now: Cover with cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, and mulch over to keep in place.

27. You can safely move deciduous trees and shrubs once they've lost their leaves.

28. Allow seed heads to remain on black-eyed Susans and coneflowers until spring; they'll provide food for hungry birds during winter.

29. Harvest chards, greens and kale.

30. Don't apply mulch until the ground freezes.

31. Happy Halloween! Read "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart to entertain yourself between ghoul and goblin visits.


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