Perennials are going dormant, trees are dropping leaves, and we humans are putting on sweaters: It’s October! As we enjoy the new season’s bounty of apples and pumpkins, and look forward to the little ghouls and goblins who will be begging for treats at our doors by month’s end, we need to keep busy planting, relocating and raking, raking, raking. Here are 31 tips and chores to keep your garden on track all month long.
1. It’s prime tree- and shrub-planting time. If yours are bare root, soak them in water for eight hours before planting.
2. Cook the last of the garden’s bounty into comforting vegetable soup and applesauce.
3. For December blossoms, start paperwhites now. Place bulbs, pointy end up, in a shallow container of gravel. Add just enough water to reach bulb bottoms.
4. Plant new perennials into beds and borders.
5. Dig up potatoes. Cure in a cool, humid spot for two weeks before eating.
6. The lawn may be slowing down, but it still needs water (so do trees and shrubs).
7. If you haven’t already, bring vacationing houseplants indoors, but rinse them first to remove hiding insects.
8. Plant dormant, one-year rhubarb crowns now, and in June, you’ll be baking them into pies with local strawberries.
9. Cook up the last of the basil and tomatoes into a comforting Columbus Day marinara sauce.
10. Start planting spring-flowering bulbs. (You can keep planting as long as soil is soft enough to dig a hole.)
11. Separate an organic garlic bulb into cloves, but don’t peel. Plant cloves pointy end up in a prepared bed for harvesting in June.
12. Plant shallots in prepared beds, 2 inches below the soil’s surface.
13. Clean up fallen fruit, leaves and debris from around trees to avoid attracting rodents.
14. Dig up, clean and store begonia and canna tubers.
15. Today is the average first frost date on Long Island. Though it often arrives later, play it safe and bring in any remaining tender plants and crops.
16. Protect newly planted evergreens by wrapping in a burlap coat.
17. Last call for seeding, sodding or repairing the lawn.
18. Keep mowing the grass until it stops growing.
19. Cover ponds with netting to keep out fallen leaves and debris.
20. Replace summer annuals with pansies. They’ll bloom all fall and return in spring.
21. Wash, dry and store terra-cotta pots indoors. If left outdoors, they’ll likely crack from the cold.
22. Remove “mummies” (shriveled fruit) from tree branches to help prevent disease.
23. Clear out vegetable plots and turn soil, incorporating compost, manure and dolomitic lime.
24. Mulch carrots, leeks, parsley and Jerusalem artichokes after the first frost to extend their season into winter.
25. Follow nature’s cue and plant roses when tree leaves begin changing color.
26. Rake and clean up perennial beds, and discard diseased plant parts in the trash. Compost the rest.
27. Disinfect tomato cages and plant supports with a 10 percent bleach solution and store for winter.
28. Remove dead and broken tree branches now to avoid damage or injury during winter storms.
29. If you need to relocate deciduous trees and shrubs, wait until all their leaves have fallen.
30. Wait until frost has killed dahlia foliage, then dig them up and store for the winter.
31. Happy Halloween! Use straight pins to attach colorful foliage “hair” to jack-o’-lanterns.