Monday, October 5, 2009

October in the Garden

Harvesting, putting your garden to bed and preparing for next spring are the biggest tasks this month. This means raking leaves, planting garlic, mowing the lawn and planting your spring flowering bulbs! October is still a great time to plant trees and shrubs, the ground typically wont freeze until mid December so plants should have several weeks of root growth before going completely dormant.

Picking pumpkins should wait until they are completely orange. They will continue to ripen on the vine as long as temps stay above freezing. If you didn’t get a chance to grow pumpkins in your own garden this year, there are some great U-Pick-It farms around. The Massachusetts Department of Agriculture has a comprehensive list by county:

Spring Flowering Bulbs, if you haven’t made your selections yet, there are lots of good deals and places to get bulbs. The key to selecting healthy bulbs is to pick ones that have weight to them. Pick your bulbs as you would an onion or clove of garlic – meaty, not mushy or dry. And remember to augment your selection of Daffodils, Crocus and Tulips with other beauties. For easy April blooms try: Chionodoxa, Scilla and Muscari. For May to June blooms try: Alliums, Hyacinthoides, Leucojum and Eremurus.

And if you buy more bulbs than you can finish planting, remember to store them in a cold (not freezing!), dry location for the winter, like an unheated basement or garage. Then in the early spring you can pot them up and force them for indoor bloom.

Start Amaryllis bulbs for Holiday blooms. Many species of Amaryllis take 8 weeks or so to bloom, and be careful not to over water those bulbs while waiting for growth to start!

Lawns should be mowed for as long as the grass keeps growing. Some years that will carry into December. Your lawn will also benefit from a fall application of fertilizer, giving it the carbohydrates needed to help survive winter. Rake leaves early and often before they get matted and moldy, this can save a lot of lawn related headaches. Also, take note of areas with crabgrass, nothing can be done at the moment, but note those problem areas and apply a preemergent early next spring to get a jumpstart on controlling that weed.

Now is a great time to fertilize trees and shrubs, especially if they did not get a spring application. Do not be tempted to prune them though, until after they are dormant. Pruning now will encourage new growth and instead you want them to save their energy for winter and next spring.

Clean, repot and bring in the last of your houseplants. Keep an eye out for freezing temperatures, but I leave my Christmas cactus out as long as possible to try to get it to bloom at Christmas (rather than Thanksgiving). The Christmas Cactus needs 12 to 14 hours of dark each day to trigger the set of blooms, and there is some evidence to show that bright outdoor lights may upset this process so be sure your plants are shaded from artificial light to ensure good bud set.

Thank you to everyone who has sent in ‘Questions for Cory’, keep those great questions coming.

Q. My Iris are taking over the garden, can I move them now? Or should I wait until the spring?

A. This is a great time to divide and relocate spring blooming perennials. Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica), in particular, benefit from dividing every 3 years. If you have noticed a lack of foliage growth or reduced blooms in the center of the plant, this is most likely an indication that your Iris needs to be divided. Also, go ahead and divide or relocate hardy perennial herbs such as Mint, Chive, Oregano, Tarragon and Lemon Balm. This year many early flowering perennials were very prolific with seed production and their “Offspring” have cropped up all over the garden. Volunteers from worthy garden plants such as: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla), Columbine (Aquilegia), Foxglove (Digitalis) and Goat’s Beard (Aruncus) can be relocated or shared with neighbors and friends.