October Garden Calendar | Midwest Living

October Garden Calendar

Plant bulbs, watch for frost and prepare for next year's lawn.

Rake and water

-- Keep raking. Leaves shouldn't collect for more than a few days on lawns because they'll suffocate grass. Don't worry, though, about leaves around shrubs and perennials; they'll provide protection.

-- Try a compost pit. If you have room, this is a good way to deal with all those fallen leaves. Just dig a big hole in an out-of-the-way place, such as behind a fence or some large shrubs. Fill with all the leaves you've been collecting, then top with the displaced soil when you're done.

-- Water. If the fall has been especially dry, continue to water, paying special attention to new plantings. Even if there has been a light frost, plants still need adequate moisture. Otherwise, plants might become dehydrated and stressed by winter -- and more likely to die out by spring.

Prepare for frost

-- Watch for frost. In all but the northernmost Midwest states, the first average frost tends to be mid- to late October. Cover annuals and other tender plants for the first few frosts so you can enjoy them as long as possible.

-- Store tender bulbs. After the first frost, dig up tender bulbs, such as gladiolus, cannas, dahlias and caladiums, that won't survive the winter. Store them indoors in a cardboard box or paper bag filled with sawdust or other dry, loose material. This will let them "breathe" so they'll be ready for replanting next spring. For details, click the link below.

-- Clean up beds. After the first killing frost, tear out annuals and cut back perennials, except those you'd like to keep standing for winter interest, such as sedum and grasses. You can also cut back perennials in the early spring, but you might as well get started on the task now.

How to store tender bulbs for the winter

Enjoy your last vegetables and herbs

-- Harvest herbs. Cut herbs before the first frost, put in jars of water and cover with a plastic bag. Change water every few days. They'll keep for weeks.

-- Pick tomatoes before it freezes. Right before the first frost, pick tomatoes green to bring indoors and use in recipes calling for green tomatoes. Otherwise, tomatoes should be harvested when about three-quarters ripe.

-- Deal with diseased plants. As annual produce plants such as tomatoes start to get overwhelmed with pest problems, tear them out and dispose of them. Don't leave them in the garden, where they'll likely harbor eggs and pathogens through the winter, increasing problems in spring.

Prepare for next year's lawn

-- Reseed. As long as you're in a region of the Midwest that still has a few weeks before the first heavy frost, it's a great time to reseed problem patches or lay new sod (left). Just keep your sod well-watered.

-- Fertilize. Feed your lawn to encourage good root growth. Even if you fertilized your cool-season grasses (such as Kentucky bluegrass, ryes and fescues) in September, it's a good idea to do it again in October to encourage faster greening in the spring. Now's also the time to fertilize warm-season grasses, such as bermudagrass, creeping bentgrass or zoysiagrass.

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