October Gardening Tips
Curious as to the best ways to tend to your garden and give your plants all they need to succeed?
Below you'll find helpful tips and tasks to accomplish during the month of October—developed by The Missouri Botanical Garden.
- All Month:
- Continue watering, especially evergreens if soils are dry.
- Nuts or seeds of woody plants usually require exposure to 3 months of cold before sprouting. This may be provided by outdoor planting in fall or "stratifying" in an unsealed bag of damp peat moss placed in the refridgerator.
- Container grown and balled & burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs can be planted. Loosen the soil in an area 2 times the diameter of the root ball before planting. Mulch well after watering.
- Plant spring bulbs among hostas, ferns, daylilies or ground covers. As these plants grow in the spring they will hide the dying bulb foliage.
- Weeks 1 & 2: For best bloom later this winter, Christmas cactus, potted azaleas and kalanchoe may be left outdoors until night temperatures drop to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Weeks 2 & 3: Cannas and dahlias can be dug when frost nips their foliage. Allow the plants to dry under cover in an airy, frost-free place before storage.
- Weeks 2, 3 & 4: Spring bulbs for forcing can be potted up now and stored in a cool, frost-free place until it is time to bring indoors, usually 12 to 15 weeks.
- Weeks 3 & 4: Transplant deciduous trees once they have dropped their leaves.
- Week 4:
- Plant tulips now.
- Trees may be fertilized now. This is best done following soil test guidelines.
- Weeks 1 & 2: Seeding should be finished by October 15.
- Weeks 2 & 3: Broadleaf herbicides can be applied now to control cool-season weeds such as chickweed and dandelion.
- Weeks 3 & 4:
- Continue mowing lawns until growth stops.
- Keep leaves raked off lawns to prevent smothering grass.
- Now is a good time to apply lime if soil tests indicate the need.
- Week 4: Winterize lawn mowers before storage.
- All Month:
- Sow cover crops such as winter rye after crops are harvested.
- Gourds should be harvested when their shells become hard or when their color changes from green to brown.
- A few degrees of frost protection may be gained by covering tender plants with sheets or light-weight fabric row covers.
- Continue harvesting tender crops before frost.
- The average first fronts usually arrives about October 15 - 20.
- Weeks 1 & 2:
- Harvest winter squash and pumpkins before frost. For best storage quality, leave an inch or two of stem on each fruit.
- Dig sweet potatoes before a bad freeze.
- All Month: Store apples in a cool basement in old plastic sacks that have been perforated for good air circulation.
- Week 1: Fall color season begins.
- Weeks 2 & 3: Persimmons start to ripen, especially after frost.
- Week 3: Begin peak fall color in maples, hickories and oaks.
- Weeks 3 & 4: Monitor fruit plantings for mouse activity and take steps for their control if present.
- Week 4:
- Place wire guards around trunks of young fruit trees for protection against mice and rabbits.
- End of peak fall color.
Experiencing Pests and Problems?
The Missouri Botanical Garden offers pictures and solutions to some common problems that occur this time of year.