October’s cooler weather coaxes us back into the garden. Take advantage of the break in the heat to prepare new beds for flowers and vegetables. Use raised bed kits, or make beds by outlining an area with a garden hose or spray paint. Remove weeds and grass from the ground with a sharp hoe, and rake out rocks and plant debris. Be as thorough as you can; leftover, chopped plant parts may regrow.
Dig the new bed deeply and collect soil samples from several spots for a soil test. Your local extension service may be able to do the test for you, or you can purchase a test kit. Amend the bed as results indicate, but wait a few weeks to plant, so any amendments have time to blend with the native soil.
- Plant new trees and shrubs this month. Arrange shrubs in a staggered design to make plantings look fuller.
- Sow fast-sprouting radish seeds. Experiment with varieties you’ve never eaten before; some have a pungent bite, while others are mild. You can also plant mustard, spinach, turnips, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, kale, kohlrabi, endive, lettuce, and other cool season crops.
- Dig and divide overcrowded daylilies, ornamental grasses and other perennials. Keep them moist by covering them with newspapers in a cool, shady spot. If the clumps dry out, soak them in a bucket of water for an hour before replanting.
- If pests nibble on your fall vegetables, use an environmentally safe insecticidal soap to combat them. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) treats cabbage worms and loopers that infest broccoli and other cole crops.
- Pre-chill tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator for 6 weeks before planting. Most gardeners in this region treat them as annuals, composting the bulbs after the flowers are finished.
- Plant allium, ginger, gladiola, ixia, narcissus, canna, amaryllis, callas, and alstroemeria in the garden.
- With hurricane season at hand, take time this month to clean up the garden. Removing weak or diseased tree limbs now can prevent damage later if winds or rain cause them to fall. Hire a professional to handle difficult pruning.
- When rains arrive, make sure water doesn’t stand in empty garden pots or other containers. Regularly clean and fill birdbaths with fresh water. Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing or stagnant water, and West Nile virus is still a threat.
- If camellia leaves turn yellow and drop, or buds drop, tiny insects called scale may be the problem. Webs underneath camellia and sasanqua leaves may signal spider mites. Treat with Neem while flowers are in the bud stage. When the flowers are finished, spray with horticultural oil.
- Patch spots in your lawn with planting mix or compost, leveling if needed before plugging with sod. Alternately, overseed with perennial ryegrass; this cool season grass prefers full sun but tolerates part shade.
- Discourage slugs and snails from chewing on lettuce by spacing far enough apart for good air circulation. Keep mulch to less than an inch deep.
- For fall color, plant pansies, snapdragons, ornamental cabbages and kale, petunias, nasturtiums, cornflowers, dianthus, and candytuft.
- For fragrance, plant dwarf wax myrtle, also called bayberry. This deer-resistant, evergreen shrub tolerates heat and salt and grows in sun or shade.
Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!