October is the right time to start thinking about putting your beloved garden to bed. You might have noticed that the last of your flowers are beginning to droop and fall off, and your leaves are turning brown. This isn’t a sign of neglect. It means that the fall sun has stimulated a biological process that initiates the next phase of their lifecycle. For annuals, this is sadly the end of the road. For perennials, it means we have to act to make sure they’ll last throughout the winter. Here are some fundamental gardening chores for October, courtesy of Karen’s Flower Shop:
Spring Cleaning in the Fall
You may have already noticed that your old plants are a tasty treat for hundreds of insects. What you don’t see is that old plants also harbour fungi and disease. Mitigate the plant-eating insect population by removing these untidy and old plants from your garden and (if they’re disease-free) adding them to your compost pile. Cleaning up your garden also gives you a better inventory of what plants are salvageable, what plants you can bring into your house, and what plants need to be cut back. Plus, it looks tidy.
While you’re at it, it’s time to give your garden shed a good tidying and to clean up all your tools. If you plan on reusing your plastic containers, clean them out with hot water and bleach to kill any lingering bacteria. Cover your compost pile with a thick layer of straw, and safely store your lawn ornaments and decorative lights.
Clean Up Weeds Now
Just because fall is here, it doesn’t mean you should give up on maintaining your garden. That truth extends to weed maintenance. Remember to pull all your weeds to prevent them from having a head start next year and to stop them from spreading. Do not shove them in the compost unless you want them to show up at another part of the garden. Instead, throw them in the garbage or add them to the pile of leaves to be burned. Lay cardboard at the bottom of your garden beds to discourage weed growth.
Give Your Soil some TLC
If you like to add nutrients back into the soil by planting cover crops (like clover or vetch), now is the time to do it. By planting these cover crops, you’re doing your part to prevent soil erosion and increase vital organic matter. You can buy cover crop seeds in bulk from your local nursery or home improvement store.
Prepare Perennials for Winter
For your perennials to survive the cold snap of winter, they need our help in protecting their fragile root systems. Not all perennials need the same level or type of care, so be sure to follow your plant’s specific guidelines. Typically, berry bushes need pruning and mulch or straw covering. Small shrubs and trees need protection from the extreme cold. Cover them completely with straw-packed snow fencing.