Garden Checklist for October
By Dr. William C. Welch,
- October through November is an excellent time to purchase bulbs while there is still a good selection. Bulbs can be planted at any time, except tulips and hyacinths.
- Refrigerate tulip and hyacinth bulbs until mid to late December before planting. The lower part of the refrigerator is best. Do not leave bulbs in airtight plastic bags during refrigerator storage.
- Plant bulbs in well-prepared beds. The base of the bulb should be at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb. In sandy soil, set bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
- Start collecting leaves for composting. Be sure to have enough soil on hand to cover each 6-inch layer of leaves with several inches of soil. Add about 1 pound of a complete lawn or garden fertilizer to each leaf layer to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition. Thoroughly wet the leaf layer before adding soil.
- Check your nursery or garden center for plants of snapdragons, pinks, sweet williams, poppies, and calendulas. Planted now, they will usually provide a riot of spring color.
- Keep Christmas cacti in a sunny spot with nighttime temperatures below 65 degrees F; buds drop if nighttime temperatures rise above 70 degrees F, or if the plants become excessively dry. To initiate flower buds, Christmas cacti should be kept in total darkness from 5 PM until 8 AM for about 30 days in October.
- If you have saved seed from your favorite plants, first air-dry them, and then place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Carefully label each packet. Remember, plants grown from hybrid plant seed seldom resemble the parent plant.
- Prepare planting beds for pansies as soon as they are available at garden centers, and the night temperatures are consistently cool. Pansies need well-drained soil and at least a half day of sun. It is best to use started plants, as seed is difficult to handle. Other annuals to plant now (except in the high plains and panhandle) include ornamental kale and cabbage, snapdragons, sweet alyssum, and petunias.
- If you wish to save caladium tubers for another year, dig in late October and allow them to dry in a well ventilated but shaded area. After 7 to 10 days, remove the leaves and dirt; then, store in dry peat moss, vermiculite, or similar material. Pack so that the tubers do not touch each other, and dust with an all-purpose fungicide. Store the container in an area where temperatures won’t drop below 50 degrees F.
- If twig girdlers have infested your trees, and many twigs and branches are dropping, make sure these are collected and destroyed, since the eggs are deposited in that portion of the branch that drops to the ground.
- There is still time to divide and reset perennials such as phlox, violets, iris, day lilies, and shasta daisies.
- October is a good time to reduce the potential for insects and disease in next year’s garden. Clean up the garden, removing all annuals that have completed their life cycle. Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials when they finish flowering, or as soon as frost kills the leaves.
- Holly plants with a heavy set of fruit often suffer from a fertilizer deficiency. Applying a complete fertilizer late in October can be helpful, and will provide a head start next spring.