October Gardening Tasks

 

Soil Testing - Fall is a great time for soil testing your garden beds and lawns. This will establish nutrient and lime needs. UGA/Extension soil tests take 7-10 working days, so test now to have results when you plant bulbs, plants, and lawn seeds. Tests are $8.00 a sample and bags can be obtained from the Hall County Extension office.

 

Trees and Shrubs: 

 

Fall is a great time to plant new trees and shrubs or transplant existing ones. Trees and shrubs planted in the Fall have an opportunity to establish an extensive root system while the plant is dormant. Soils are warm enough in the Fall to support root growth during most of the Winter.

 

Check the trunks of trees and shrubs to make sure the plants are healthy before buying. Pick trees with straight trunks and symmetrical canopies. The plant will be easier to prune into the desired shape needed and these plants are more structurally sound.

 

Try not to purchase a tree that is pot-bound. Try to check the container for circling roots which will indicate that tree or shrub might have a poor root system when planted. 

 

Make sure when planting that the planting hole is two to three times the diameter of the root soil ball. Loosen the root ball somewhat, but do not disturb the existing root system too much.

 

Now is a good time to prune broken and dead branches from your existing trees and shrubs. Do not do radical pruning. Wait until late Winter to prune when most of your plants are in dormancy.

 

Remember newly planted plants, trees, and shrubs need water during dry periods during the Winter months. Fertilize those plants the following Spring.

 

Avoid pruning Spring-flowering shrubs like azalea, camellia, and forsythia. Wait until after they bloom.

 

Now is a good time to plant fruiting trees as well. Always adhere to a routine maintenance schedule when getting fruit trees established. Check with your local Extension office for maintenance schedules on trees such as apple, pear, plum, and peach.

 

If you have existing fruit trees, inspect them now. Remove any mummified remaining fruits from the trees and rake up and dispose of old fallen leaves, branches, and old fruit. This will decrease insect and disease problems from overwintering.

 

Pruning time is important for most woody plants, trees, and shrubs. Make sure you are pruning at the appropriate time. Most trees and shrubs can be pruned during the dormant cooler season (Dec., Jan., and Feb.), so check with the Extension office if you are not sure when to prune.

 

Lawns:

 

Warm season lawns (Bermuda) will start to lose color as the weather cools. For a green lawn, plant a cover grass such as annual ryegrass when daytime temps are in the low 70s.

 

Aerating and seeding a new or established fescue lawn is best done in October. Fescue sod can also be put down now. 

 

Fertilize newly-planted fescue with a high phosphorous started fertilizer.

 

Over-seeding a Bermuda lawn can also be done in October. Add some nitrogen to Bermuda lawns this month that have been over-seeded. DO NOT fertilize non-over-seeded, warm season grass lawns late in the Fall!

 

Raise your mower height one-half inch and mow your Bermuda, zoysia, and centipede lawn for the last month and then put your mower up for the Winter.

 

Last chance to apply a weed preventer to Bermuda, zoysia, and centipede lawns. You can expect about a 75% control to prevent Winter weeds like chickweed and bluegrass.

 

Flowering Plants:

 

Pansy season is here!! Plant pansies in masses. Pick a color scheme and get creative. Fill garden beds and container pots with these colorful Winter flowers. Make sure you plant them 8-10" apart. Fertilize them at the end of the month.

 

Plant other annual cool season flowering plants like snapdragon and violas, as well.

 

Plant Spring-flowering bulbs now through mid-December. Select a good planting site for visual enjoyment and plant them in masses. Tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, and crocus are good bulb choices.

 

Now is a good time to divide overcrowded bulb gardens. Crowded beds can be loosened up, bulbs divided and replanted.

 

Cut back flowering perennials to about 6" tall.

 

Cut back black-eyed Susan, daylilies, hosta, and coneflower to ground level.

 

Divide peony roots, daylily clumps, and iris rhizomes. Replant them fairly quickly in a well-dug bed.

 

Remove faded rose blooms. Clip old stems and dead branches to a more compact form.

 

Now is a great time to root cuttings from geraniums, begonias, coleus, and other outside plants.

 

Now is the time to put poinsettias and Christmas cacti into dark hours. 14 hours of darkness and 10 hours of bright light each day will do it.

 

Plant chrysanthemums for Fall color.

 

Vegetables:

 

To save seeds from your warm-season veggies, let the fruit from your ripened tomatoes and peppers grow to a late maturity date. With tomatoes, let them over-ripen. Slice the tomatoes open and let the seeded portions sit in enough water to cover in a warm environment for 3-5 days. Stir the mixture every day. Add water after the fermented time and the healthy mature seeds will sink to the bottom. For peppers, remove from a wrinkled state, then cut the fruit open and remove the seeds. Dry them and store in a cool, dry, dark place.

 

Beans and pea seeds can be saved, as well. When the pods have dried and turned brown, split the pods open and release the seeds. Store the seeds in a cool dark place. You can store in a mason jar or in small envelopes. Make sure you label the containers.

 

October is a good time to plant Elephant garlic and regular garlic. Now is also a good time to plant bunching onions.

 

Check your cool season veggies like cabbage, kale, and mustard for cabbage loopers and spray with Bt, sevin, or spinosad.

 

Be wary of early frost and have cover necessary if a cold snap is anticipated, especially if you have planted strawberry beds.

 

Harvest Fall potatoes when the tops die down and store in a cool, dark place.

 

Harvest herbs and hang upside down to dry in a cool, dry place.

 

Consider a Winter crop cover in the vegetable garden. Annual rye grass or clover is a good choice.

 

Houseplants:

 

Bring outdoor plants indoors around mid-October. If it is forecasted to go into the 50s, clean and sanitize pots or even repot in clean soil. 

 

Place indoor plants in your house according to light needs. Less watering is required during their Winter rest. Keep plants away from heat sources.

 

Check periodically for insects like spider mites. Spray with insecticidal soap, if needed.

 

Miscellaneous tasks:

 

Cut and remove weeds from and near your gardens to minimize potential pests and diseases.

 

Rake out and replace old mulch and dead material from underneath blooming shrubs like roses, photinia, and hydrangeas.

 

Put lawn mower up for the season.

 

Review pesticide storage procedures. Are they labeled, locked, and kept in a protected space? Will they freeze?