October Gardening Activities - Region 3
Gardening Tips for October
Northeast, Midwest and Central Plains Gardens
States in the region:
Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois,
Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana
Key Issues for October
- You’ve reached last call to control grubs in the lawn. As soil temperatures cool down in late fall, grubs go deeper into the soil, where they’ll spend the winter. Note: It’s when you see 10 or more grubs per square foot that you need to treat your lawn. As always, be sure to carefully read and follow all insecticide label directions.
- Check your hemlocks for possible infestations of hemlock woolly adelgids. If found, spray with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to kill pests that will inevitably overwinter. Always read and follow label directions carefully. If your trees are too large for you to treat, consult an arborist for help.
- Fall is an ideal time to control broad-leaved weeds in the lawn. Doing this now helps eliminate some problems come spring. Your local Cooperative Extension office can recommend the best herbicides (weed killers) to use. Again, always read and follow label directions for proper, safe use.
- Remove bagworm bags from evergreens and branch crotches on trees. If you don’t, the eggs of this pest will overwinter safely in those silky bags, only to hatch next spring while you’re busy with other gardening tasks.
- Bring in houseplants that summered outdoors. After months of humidity and sufficient light outside, they must now accept the drier air and lower light levels indoors.
- Rake fallen leaves before they have a chance to pile up on the lawn and collect in your landscape. In addition to giving your yard a tidy appearance, raking leaves helps keep your lawn healthy and prevents pests from finding hiding spots to spend the winter.
- Plant trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, groundcovers and roses in your landscape. Planting in fall is a good idea so plants can set roots before the onset of winter. Add a little extra fall interest with a few annuals like pansies and violas, cabbages and kales. Be sure to water in all new transplants well.
- Remember the H2O! Fall temps may get cooler, but your garden can still be exposed to long spans of dry, sunny weather. It’s particularly important that all newly planted perennials, groundcovers, trees and shrubs don’t dry out. The trick is to water deeply – not just at surface level – to establish self-sufficient plants.
- Envision beautiful tulips, daffodils and crocus blooming in your garden next spring. Now’s the time to buy and plant those spring-flowering bulbs. (Remember, you plant bulbs now to enjoy later!) When picking bulbs, select ones that are firm, not soft or mushy.
- Harvest the last of your tomatoes – even the green ones – before the first frost hits. Fried green tomatoes make a delicious fall treat!
- Turn an ordinary pumpkin into a beautiful fall planter.
- Harvest, dry and store seeds from any desirable annuals before the gardening season comes to an end. Zinnia, cosmos, sunflower and marigold are some examples of easy-to-harvest seed heads. Heritage vegetables may be dried for their seeds, too.
- Before the first killing frost comes, take stem cuttings of any tender plants that you’d like to overwinter indoors. Coleus, lantana and many other tropical perennials make great candidates for propagating.
- Start a new herb garden from current plants. Most herbs, like rosemary, basil and oregano, can be propagated by cuttings for next year’s bounty.
- Lift canna and other tropical bulbs before frost hits, allowing the leaves to wither and the soil on the roots to dry. After a few days, you can safely break away the dried leaves and brush off the soil, then store them in sawdust or shredded paper to overwinter in a cool (frost-free), dry spot indoors.
- Go apple picking! It’s a fun family outing that leads to healthy snacking. With so many apple varieties to choose from, there’s bound to be a few that tickle everyone’s taste buds.
- Store apples in the refrigerator and enjoy them in sauces, pies and other apple-filled treats. Keep the fruit in a plastic bag with small air holes to prevent further ripening and to maintain a high moisture level to delay withering.
- Get ready for Halloween! Pumpkins take center stage when you create a unique pumpkin totem pole. Make it a fun day for the family: Pick your pumpkins, paint them, then see how they stack up!
- Help the kids and grandchildren turn sweetgum seedpods into Halloween decorations. These “prickle balls” make cool bats and spiders!
- Prepare container plants for winter. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to your geraniums, try overwintering them. Here’s one neat way: Remove plants from their pots and wash off the soil with a hose. Hang your geraniums upside down by their roots in a cool location (somewhere that’s never freezing and not too humid – like in the basement or root cellar). In spring, repot for the season, trim back any non-living plant parts and fertilize.
- Cut back any herb flower stalks that are in good shape, then prepare them for winter use. Making dried herbs, infusions and essential oils is a great way to enjoy your harvest long after the plants have gone.
- Prepare to help our feathered friends this winter. Bring out any stored feeders and clean them if necessary. (Find strategic spots for window viewing so you can enjoy life in the winter garden from the warm comfort of your home.) Buy birdseed to have on hand when Mother Nature’s supply is depleted. Leaving dry seed heads on your plants instead of cutting them off is another great way to supply winter food for birds.
- Build or buy a compost bin for all your yard waste, then make your own compost. (You reduce, reuse and recycle when you do!) As you start your fall garden cleanup, add non-diseased garden debris to your compost pile instead of the trash. Composting is an easy, smart and affordable way to make “black gold” for your garden!
- Prepare your garden pond for winter. Begin by removing any leaves and twigs that have fallen into the water to maintain water quality and help fish stay healthy.
- Take pictures and make notes of what did and did not perform well in your garden this year. Keep it all in a garden journal. You’ll save time and money when next spring rolls around as you peruse plant catalogs, order seeds and buy more plants.