October Garden Checklist

October is a magical time in the garden, as warm hues of golds, russets, and maroons emerge from the shadows. Green shrubs, which formerly kept their place as supporting cast members to flowering perennials, suddenly sparkle as the stars of the autumn garden show. This is the time to enjoy fall colors while also preparing your garden for the coming winter. Recommendations are separated out by regions, as different areas cool to different degrees. But first, let’s talk about a few general gardening tasks that apply no matter where you live. Now is the best time of year to test your soil or send it to your local cooperative extension office so you can correct any imbalances before the spring growing season. You will be doing all your plants a huge favor by taking the necessary steps to enrich your soil with all the nutrients your plants need. This is also the time of year to lift, move, or divide spring- and summer-blooming perennials. And don’t forget about the birds as temperatures start to cool down. Stock up on birdseed and suet so that birds can enjoy tasty treats throughout the winter.


Although hummingbirds may have already left your area, it’s good to keep feeders full until two weeks after the last hummer of the season has had her fill. And lastly, don’t be too quick to cut back all your spent ornamental grasses or other seed-bearing plants. The birds will appreciate the additional winter food source! Here are a few garden tasks for your region:


Northeast Plant most deciduous trees. Remove spent annuals from window boxes and planters. Cover late plantings of spring bulbs (except iris rhizomes) with a 4-6” mulch layer. South Set pansies out where they have good soil and morning sun. Plant ajuga, hostas, phlox, and other perennials. Plant ranunculus. Sow cornflowers, larkspur, poppies, and other annuals. Feed shade trees with a balanced fertilizer. Lightly prune established evergreens.


Midwest Dig tubers of dahlias and cannas and divide dahlia clumps. Mulch asparagus and rhubarb with compost. Mulch strawberry beds with hay or straw when soil freezes. Pot up newly rooted shrub cuttings.


Mountain States Feed trees. Plant groundcovers on slopes and in shady areas.

Southwest Plant evergreens when weather gets cooler. Deeply water plants every 10 days. Plant spring bulbs. Clip hedges.


California Light and store summer bulbs that have finished blooming. Plant evergreens. Order and plant irises. Water chrysanthemums regularly while they bud and bloom. In the second half of the month, divide perennials like helianthus, heliopsis, rudbeckias, and Shasta daisies. Sow hardy annuals for spring bloom.


Pacific Northwest Plant thyme, heather, and other groundcovers in combination with early bulbs. Sow hardy annuals for spring sprouting. When you\'re all done with your gardening chores, the only thing left to do is head inside, kick your shoes off and enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie with a cup of hot apple cider. You earned it!