October To-Do List


Once houseplants are moved indoors, hold off fertilizing until after March 21st. Wipe the pots with damp paper towels, inspect for insects or webs, and bring the plants inside before the end of October. Pot up small parsley and basil plants and bring them inside. Place by a sunny window. They’ll grow very nicely indoors, adding flavor to winter meals.

Spread two inches of shredded mulch or finished compost around shrubs, perennials, and herb plants to hold in moisture and protect roots from freezing temperatures.

To prevent diseases and pests from over-wintering, remove the decaying remnants of summer’s vegetable plants  from the garden. Rake up spent tomato plants and vines and dispose of them in the trash. If you’re not planting an autumn garden of cole crops, then cover the bare soil with a 2 inch layer of finely shredded leaves, bark, peat or straw. Especially straw ! Straw protects bare soil and as it decomposes it add fiber and nutrients to the soil. Make sure it’s straw and not hay. Hay is full of weed seeds that will sprout in the spring. So make it straw.

Ceramic pots, glass or resin ornaments should be cleaned and stored indoors for protection from winter freezes. Left outdoors, they’ll probably shatter at some point when temperatures plummet.

Store stakes, trellises, and tomato cages outside during winter. Keeping them outdoors will prevent insects from over-wintering in sheds and garages. Spray them with a blast of water to loosen any soil or debris that might be clinging to them. Keep them upright for storage.

Protect ornamentals and fruit trees from deer and mice by loosely wrapping chicken wire around the trunks.

To add color to the landscape, plant a variety of pansies and chrysanthemums. They’ll brighten autumn with color until late November. Fertilize weekly for a profusion of blooms. Use a water soluble fertilizer. Add 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water and pour this around the base of the plants.

The roots of autumn vegetables such as collards, mustard, chard, kale and turnips can reach a depth of a foot or more. Work a little organic mulch into the soil after the plants reach 6 inches. This method is called “top-dressing” and will feed the plants as they grow. The same applies to newly planted rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender and plants of the mint family. Work in an inch or two of peat moss, compost or finely shredded leaves. Scatter this around the plants, and the rain will wash the nutrients into the soil where the roots of growing plants can receive it.

Turn over a small area of the garden and rake it smooth. Scatter left over herb seeds from summer on the soil. I always seem to have dill, parsley and basil seeds. The seeds will sprout during October, providing healthy greens for birds who may not go south for the winter.

For the one last harvest from the herb garden, pick and freeze a few leaves of sage, thyme, parsley, and rosemary for holiday meals. Chop them finely, and place in bags or containers. Label and freeze.

Blessed be, sweet ones.

~ Meadow Walker

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