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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: October chores

October is pumpkin time -- and a whole

October is pumpkin time -- and a whole lot more. Photo Credit: iStock

There's a chill in the air, and most of us are focused on battening down the hatches for winter, decorating for Halloween and settling in for a few months of indoor time.

Not so fast, kemosabe!

There's no rest for the weary who want a beautiful garden. Here are some not-so-scary October chores to keep things in tiptop shape before those little ghosts and goblins come knocking at month's end.

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

2. Dig up potatoes, cure in a humid, 50- to 60-degree spot for two weeks, then store in a dry, dark area at 40 degrees. They'll keep all winter.

3. Rinse vacationing houseplants with a gentle stream from the hose to remove insects, then bring indoors until spring.

4. Cover ponds with netting to prevent leaves from falling into the water.

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

6. Start planting spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths and chionodoxa.

7. For holiday blooms start paperwhites now. Place bulbs, pointy end up, in a shallow container of gravel. Add just enough water to reach bulb bottoms.

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

9. Last call for seeding, sodding or repairing the lawn.

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

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

12. Clear beds and pots of annuals and replace with pansies. They'll bloom all fall and return in spring.

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

14. Today is the average first frost date on Long Island. Bring in any remaining herbs and summer crops.

15. Clear out the vegetable bed and till compost, manure and lime into the soil.

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

17. Plant clover in cleared-out vegetable beds and apply fast-release fertilizer. Then turn the soil in spring -- at least two weeks before planting new crops -- for naturally nitrogen-rich soil.

18. Protect new evergreens with a burlap wrap.

19. Mulch carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks and parsley after frost hits and leave them in the garden for harvesting well into winter.

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 to help protect them over the winter, but don't fertilize with 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. You can safely move deciduous trees and shrubs once leaves have fallen off.

27. Move quickly to plant, divide and transplant perennials before it's too late.

28. If you delay cutting back black-eyed susans and coneflowers until spring, their seed heads will provide food for hungry birds during winter.

29. Harvest chards, greens and kale.

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

31. Mow over leaf piles to shred and apply around plants now or bag up for use as mulch in spring.


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