The leaves are turning crimson and falling to the ground, leaving the bare hands of trees reaching for cooler skies. October has always been the main month for the big garlic plant. Many families have a tradition to get their cloves in the ground on Thanksgiving weekend, before the cold sets in. There are many other tasks at hand that really help for the fall/winter harvests, and give you a head start for spring and summer.
Let’s begin with what to grow! Yes! Gardening season has just begun for many! Fall gardens have the benefits of not requiring as much care or as much watering with the change in weather, and the decrease in pests, as many of them are finding homes for the winter instead of foraging.
It is an excellent time to transplant seedlings of cabbage, cauliflower. beets and broccoli, as well as direct sowing quick growing peas, turnips, bok choy, kale, carrots, swiss chard, spinach and radishes. A useful tip for cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is to bring all of their leaves up and tie them together to protect the heads from frost later on.
Another beneficial job at this time is to dig up your summer bulbs, remove any dead leaves and store bulbs in a dry place for the winter. These especially include dahlias as they can be quite damaged by the cold. Also gladioli corms and begonia tubers will do much better if dug up and stored until next year.
You can split your perennials and herbs, to prevent overcrowding while the weather is still warm. Make sure to cut them back, removing all dead leaves. I like to take photos of my gardens once my clean up is done, so I can remember where everything is before it all dies back for the winter! Herbs can also be direct sown at this time, as our climate allows for them to establish a strong root system before the cold sets in. If you plant now, by spring next year you will have an abundance of herbs, well ahead of any seeds starts you could plant at the end of May!
It’s best not to rake the leaves as they offer habitats for overwintering pollinators, but in areas where you must rake, make sure to utilize those leaves for mulch in the garden. Any roses must have the fallen leaves raked and removed, and make sure to dispose of them to prevent disease and the spread of damaging fungi! Prune any climbing roses and tie the stems to prevent them from breaking in the wind.
Discover areas or your yard where you would like more privacy? This is an ideal time for the relocation of any trees, shrubs or perennials. I always take inventory of the trees that I have, and make sure to plant seedlings to ensure a diverse and balanced canopy in the future. For instance, I have lots of patches of alder which are prone to a short life expectancy, so I season those patches with douglas fir, cedar and evergreens which will flourish on the fallen decomposing alders in the future. This diversity adds strength to the root systems, and helps endure winter storms.
If you have any trees on your property that are of concern with storm season fast approaching, you can thin the crown by trimming the thinner branches right to the trunk in a spiral pattern up the tree to help deflect wind. This “spiral pruning” reduces the weight of the tree, and decreases resistance, allowing wind to travel through and around more freely. This makes the tree safer, as there is less risk of it coming down in a storm. Of course you need to contact an arborist or qualified tree specialist if it is a really large tree, but it is something to consider if you have trees of concern, especially by your home!
If your greenhouse is now empty, it’s a great opportunity to clean it up, wash it out and disinfect it. This will prevent mold, mildews and the transfer of any plant diseases. Organize that clutter of plant pots and prepare for a fresh start next year! You will thank yourself!
These fall “Chores” as we call them will give us food crops in November/December, make our perennials more resilient and prepare our yards and gardens for a successful Spring!
Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild
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