October Garden Tips

October Tips

October is harvest month.  It is also planting and cleanup time.  There is plenty to do in our gardens.  The first date for the Tidewater area is between 11-8 and 11-28.

Indoor Plants

  • Bring in all houseplants before frost.  Wash them down well to remove any insects before bringing them into your house.
  • Hold off on fertilizing houseplants.  Restart next March.
  • Starting now, water lightly once a month.
  • Christmas cactus need special care now to get its beautiful flowers this December.  Buds will form at 50-60 degrees F or if the plant is exposed to at least 13 hours of complete darkness each night.

Lawns and Landscaping

  • Continue your fertilizing schedule started back in September.  For example, 4 lbs./1000 sq. ft. means 1 1/2 lbs. in Sept. and October, and 1 lb. in Nov. or Dec.
  • Now is also a good time to have your soil tested for applications next year.
  • As long as your grass continues to grow, it will still need to be cut.
  • Remove leaves from the lawn to reduce problems.  Compost them or save them for next year's mulch.
  • Now is the time to control certain broadleaf weeds including chickweed, white clover, dandelion, wild onion, plantain, and Canada thistle.  Call the Extension Office for recommendations.
  • Continue to weed, weed, weed.
  • Sow seeds for new lawns.  If there is an early frost, be sure to keep the ground moist so the seedlings will continue to develop roots until the ground freezes.
  • Lime and aerate lawns now.

Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs

  • ​Ferns can be planted or transplanted in the fall.
  • Move and divide crowded perennials.  Swap them with friends.
  • Cut down stems and foliage of herbaceous perennials when the leaves begin to brown.
  • Add mulch to your perennial borders.  This will help conserve soil moisture, protect root systems, and reduce plant loss by soil heaving during the winter.
  • A lily bulb is never dormant and must be planted as soon as it is received.  Have beds prepared ahead of time.
  • Continue to plant spring-flowering bulbs, especially tulips, before the month ends.
  • Lift and store begonia, dahlia and gladiolus.
  • Plant bare-root roses at this time.
  • It is too late to prune roses due to winter injury.  However, rake and clean around the plants to prevent black spot and other diseases.
  • Dig and bring in cannas, dahlias and gladiolus.  Dry, clean and store in a cool location free from frost.
  • October is the best month to transplant perennials.  Enrich beds with organic soil amendment.
  • Lift and divide plants that have finished blooming.  Divide and re-plant daisies, callas, and day lilies every few years for best blooms.
  • Remove suckers from roses and lilac.  Spray or dust roses to discourage powdery mildew.

Trees, Shrubs and Groundcovers

  • ​Transplant deciduous trees and shrubs when they are dormant.  Evergreen trees or shrubs may be transplanted before they go dormant.  October and November are generally considered the best months to plant trees and shrubs.
  • Plant trees at least 6 feet away from sidewalks and concrete pools, so growing roots do not crack the concrete.
  • The top of a shrub's or tree's roots should be flush with the ground, so the planting hole should be no deeper than the root ball.
  • Your trees and shrubs have begun to harden for the up-coming cold weather.  To encourage this, remove mulch from around the stems of shrubs and trees.
  • To minimize the look of open spaces between new shrubs, plant a low-growing groundcover, such as bugleweed or winter creeper.
  • Water evergreens thoroughly before the ground freezes.  They tend to lose water during the winter and cannot replenish their water after the ground freezes.
  • When deciding on new trees or shrubs to plant around your home, remember to select varieties that will fit the location when they are at their mature height.  this will gently reduce pruning and other maintenance in the future.
  • Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs.  This will eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.
  • Prune trees and shrubs so that the air can flow through them freely in winter.


  • ​Cut back perennial herbs to encourage well-balanced growth next year.
  • Parsley, chives, sage, and thyme taken from the garden and potted will do well all winter if watered and set in a sunny window.
  • Make a note of any particular productive or unsatisfactory varieties of vegetables that you planted this year.  Such information can be very useful when planning next year's garden.
  • Cure pumpkins, butternut and hubbard squash at temperatures between 70-80 degrees F for two or three weeks immediately after harvest.  After curing, store them in a dry place at 55-60 degrees F.
  • Clean up the orchard and small fruit plantings.  Sanitation is essential for good maintenance.  Dried fruits or mummies carry disease organisms through the winter to attack next year's crop.
  • Use dried herbs to make fragrant wreaths and dried flower arrangements.
  • By mid-October, or if frost is predicted, pick all tomatoes, whether they are ripe of not. Refrigerate or freeze ripe tomatoes.
  • Wrap green tomatoes or hang the entire plants (with unpicked fruit) upside down.  Alternatively, these can be stored in a brown paper bag in a cool dark area.
  • In late October cut back asparagus stalks to the ground.  Mark the location.  Mulch 3 to 4 inches.
  • Prepare vegetable beds for spring and remove all debris.


  • ​Late-fall tilling will expose insect pests to winter conditions.  It also makes spring soil preparations easier.
  • Store chemicals that should not freeze in a place where temperatures do not fall below 40 degrees F.
  • During fall, demand for garden supplies is low, so keep an eye open for special prices on hand tools and power equipment.
  • Do not apply quick-acting fertilizers while tilling the soil.  Otherwise, the nitrogen will leach away before spring.
  • Mulch is best used during fall and winter after the soil temperature has reached 32 degrees F.  A mulch is used to keep soil temperatures constant and prevent frost heaving, not to keep it warm.
  • Fall is an excellent time for taking soil samples in your lawn and garden.  Soil tests will measure the pH of the soil, organic matter content and the levels of some of the major elements required for plant growth, such as phosphorus and potassium.
  • Cover open compost heaps with plastic when there are signs of heavy rains.

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