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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Oct. 2013 To-Do List: Mid-Atlantic

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raking leavesOctober is a great time to clean up the garden, but you can still plant, too. Try evergreens for winter interest and bulbs for blooms next spring. Sow wildflower seeds for a mini-meadow, or grow cool season vegetables. Be sure to keep newly planted or transplanted trees and shrubs well-watered if the weather is dry. As you rake fallen leaves and pull plants that have finished, leave the dried seedheads on coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, thistle, goldenrod, and sunflowers for hungry birds. You’ll enjoy watching them from your windows, and you’ll help them survive when natural food supplies grow scarce.

  • Divide overcrowded or under-performing spring or summer perennials, including yarrow, irises, and daylilies. Trash diseased parts; don’t put them in the compost bin, where problems can spread.
  •  Rake up and remove dropped leaves around roses or other flowers that are susceptible to fungal diseases. Replace or replenish mulch as needed.
  • Take cuttings of geraniums to overwinter. Dip the ends in rooting hormone and put them in a good quality potting mixture. An east or south-facing window that gets bright light is best.
  • Use your compost in flowerbeds, spreading it an inch thick and topping it with mulch. Spread two or three inches over poor soils and top with mulch. By spring, nutrients from the compost will help improve your garden spot.
  • Start a new compost pile.
  • To prepare for planting blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries next spring, choose a location with soil that drains easily, in a location that gets full sun. Plant a “green manure,” or cover crop, that you can cut and till under to help fertilize the bed.
  • Keep bird feeders clean. To disinfect them, soak them in a solution of one part liquid bleach to 9 parts water for just a couple of minutes. Let them air dry thoroughly before refilling.
  • Sow a bed of spring-blooming annuals with the seeds of larkspur, poppies, cosmos, nasturtium, cleome, sweet alyssum, and nigella. 
  • Vegetables to plant now include spinach, carrots, beets, and radishes.
  • Brussels sprouts taste sweeter after they’re touched by frost. Harvest the stalks from the bottom first, so the smaller sprouts up top can grow bigger.
  • Garlic needs to go into the ground before freezing weather arrives. Break the cloves into individual bulbs and plant them an inch deep in rich, loose soil.
  • Harvest potatoes, pumpkins and winter squash and store in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Check periodically, and discard any that show signs of spoilage.
  • Divide clumps of liriope. Tease the roots and bulbs apart, and transplant at the same depth the plant was growing.
  • Core-aerate brown patches in the lawn to help water reach the roots more easily.
  • Don’t wait too long to buy spring bulbs; popular varieties sell out early. You can plant until  Thanksgiving, but earlier is better, so roots have time to become well established.



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