Jan’s online garden hints

Jan’s October Tips

-When autumn leaves fall, begin planting spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. For best soil drainage, plant bulbs on a berm, hillside or raised bed.

-If deer routinely chomp on your tulips, substitute deer-resistant bulbs such as camass, daffodil, flowering onion, fritillaria, Siberian squill, snowdrop, snowflake, or star of Bethlehem.

-Plant lily bulbs as soon as you buy them. Also, dig and divide crowded lilies. Replant each bulb in a hole that is two to three times the depth of the bulb.

-After frost blackens the leaves, dig up dahlias, cannas and gladioli to store in a cool spot indoors. Clip off canna and dahlia tops near ground level. Allow a day for canna rhizomes to dry, and then pack them upside down in a cardboard box, leaving a little soil on each clump to help protect the rhizomes from drying out. Store dahlias in moist sand. Allow gladiolus corms to dry for several weeks, and then cut off the tops, crumble away the remains of the old corms, and store the new ones in a shoe box filled with cooled wood ashes.

-Skim autumn leaves from the surface of the water garden before they sink to the bottom. Remove hardy lilies and bog plants from their perches and set the pots on the bottom of the pond. If your pool is less than 2 feet deep, wrap the pots in a tarp and store the plants in a cool, dark place (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) all winter.

-Prepare a new flower bed for spring planting this easy way: Kill grass by covering it with a layer of newspapers several sections deep, topped with a layer of bark chips or other mulch to keep the papers from blowing away.

-Get a head start on spring flowers by sowing seeds of bachelor buttons, calendulas, larkspurs and poppies now.

-Transplant into the ground any roses, coralbells or other perennials that are growing in containers. Or wait until cold weather forces the plants into dormancy, then wrap the pots with bubble wrap or other insulation and move the pots into a protected spot such as the garage.

-Don’t panic if houseplants brought back in after a summer outside drop some leaves, a natural response to lower light.

-Cut the foliage of disease-prone perennials such as aster, beebalm, garden phlox, lily and peony back to the ground. Remove all stems and leaves. Allow other perennials, including tall sedums, purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans and ornamental grasses, to remain for winter interest and to provide seeds for birds.

-Help perennial plants survive the winter by making sure the soil slopes away from their centers, so water won’t collect there and freeze.

-Gather dried seed heads and pods from cardinal climber, globe amaranth, love-in-a-mist, purple hyacinth bean, spider flower and other annuals whose seeds you want to save.

 Vegetables, fruits, herbs:

-To keep the tomato harvest coming for a while after frost, pull up the plants and hang them upside down in your garage or basement. Or pile the plants on top of each other in the garden and cover the stack with a blanket on frosty nights, allowing the tomatoes to continue slowly ripening for several more weeks.

-For best flavor, wait until after the first frost to harvest Brussels sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes, kale and parsnips. To harvest Brussels sprouts, start picking from the bottom of the stalk as the small heads mature.

-Keep fresh salads coming longer by draping two layers of floating row cover over the lettuce bed.

-Leave extra beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips in the garden. Just before the ground freezes, add a thick blanket of leaves, then harvest the roots as needed.

-For fresh chives all winter, pot up some plants now but leave the pot outside a while longer for thorough chilling.

-Clean up plant debris in the vegetable garden to reduce problems next year with tomato blight, squash bugs and other pests and diseases. Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost on the bare soil and spade or till it into the soil, leaving the surface rough.

-Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost, leaving an inch or two of stem on each. For long-keeping, cure by spreading in a single layer in a warm spot for a week or two. Then move them to a cooler place that stays 55 to 60 degrees.

-Store potatoes in a cool, dark place.

-Clean up dropped apples, crabapples and pears. Pick and destroy any dried fruit “mummies” still on the trees. Rake up fallen leaves to help control scab and leaf spot diseases.

-Get a jump on the spring season by taking steps to improve the soil this fall. Contact your Cooperative Extension office for instruction on taking samples for a soil test. To protect the soil from winter erosion, spread a blanket of shredded leaves on bare ground.

Around the yard:

-Enjoy fall-blooming perennials such as monkshood, toad lily, willow-leaved sunflower, and October daphne stonecrop.

-When autumn leaves pile up on the lawn, forget the leaf rake. Shred leaves into fine particles with a mulching mower. Or use a bagging mower to collect shredded leaves mixed with grass clippings, perfect for mulching or adding to the compost pile.

-Postpone pruning chores until winter to avoid stimulating tender new growth this autumn.

-Empty and stack clay pots in a shed, garage or basement. If you lack space to store large clay pots, empty them and turn them upside down outdoors.

-If the weather is dry, continue watering. Pay special attention to newly-planted perennials, shrubs, trees, and grass. Also spread a big circle of bark chips or other mulch several inches deep around the plants to give the roots more time to get established before the ground freezes.

-Mow any large patch of wildflowers, allowing spent flowers and foliage to remain where they fall.

-Tie bundles of dead blossoms, such as marigolds and zinnias, to shrubs to attract winter birds.

-Help grass grow thicker by fertilizing the lawn with a natural, slow-release fertilizer. Avoid quick-release fertilizer, which encourages lush growth that is susceptible to disease.

-Continue to mow the grass until growth stops.

-Don’t panic if you see some evergreen needles yellowing and dropping, a natural autumn occurrence. Do clean out any bunch of dead needles that accumulates in a dwarf conifer or other dense evergreen.

-Edge perennial beds.

Dogwood-red-stem-with-yew2-Create a brighter winter landscape by planting not only evergreens but also trees or shrubs that have colorful bark or persistent fruit. Consider red-twig dogwood, Heritage birch, Winter King hawthorn, and disease-resistant crabapples such as Purple Prince and Adirondack.