October Garden Tips

Fall is not the end of the gardening year. It is the start of next year’s growing season.”

~ Thalassa Cruso

Flower Gardens

Mums are frost hardy and are a great value for the spectacular show of color they provide. After the foliage freezes on your gladioli, cannas, dahlias, begonias and other tender summer-blooming bulbs dig them up, brush the dirt off, let them dry for a few days, then store them in vermiculite or peat moss and keep the medium moist throughout the winter. 

Planting large pots of garden mums, asters, or flowering kale as you remove annuals from beds and borders gives you a spectacular show of color immediately.

Make notes on the past growing season’s gardening successes or disappointments while the details are still fresh in your mind. If you had problems, come in and we will try to help you turn them into successes.


October is the best month to plant your spring-flowering bulbs. Fertilize with bulb food, super phosphate or bone meal when you plant the bulbs. Water them in thoroughly after planting.When planting bulbs the pointed end of the bulb is positioned upward.

Plant small, early-flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside. Plant small, early flowering bulbs where they can be seen from indoors, since they bloom when it is usually too cold to enjoy them outside.

Perennials & Roses

Plant perennials at the same time you plant bulbs. You’ll be able to place perennial plants between your bulb groupings for color from spring to fall.

Many perennials and ornamental grasses add seasonal interest to the garden with attractive seed heads and plumes. Choose what you would like to remain intact and tidy up others by cutting back tall stems to the base foliage.

As the soil cools, apply mulch around perennial plants, especially those that have been recently planted.

Water roses less frequently and stop fertilizing to prepare them for winter dormancy.

Don’t forget to water monthly during the winter if there is no natural snow or rain. 

Remove any foliage with fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and rust. Discard in the trash. Cleaning up now will help prevent a recurrence of the problem next year. 

Cut back perennials leaving a 6 inch stub above the ground. Leave those with attractive seed heads for winter interest, such as coneflower and yarrow. 

Leave the fronds of your outdoor ferns on the plant to protect the crowns. Prune out the old fronds in the spring when new shoots show in the spring.


Green Thumb Winterizer should be applied in mid October. Your lawn will be nice and green in the spring.

As leaves fall, rake them from lawns and add to compost or shred them and dig directly into your vegetable garden. Soggy mats of leaves on turf can lead to disease problems. 

Leave your grass at a height of 2 ½” for the final mowing of the season. Continue to water as long as the temperatures remain above freezing. Give your lawn a good watering before you drain your sprinkler systems. Drain the system before the temperatures drop into the low twenties, to avoid freeze damage to the lines and sprinkler heads. Insulate and protect the vacuum breaker that is above ground before the first freezing weather.


In October, deep water trees and shrubs every three weeks thoroughly. 

Do not fertilize trees now. If you had insect problems on your trees and shrubs, spray a dormant oil spray on the trunks and limbs to suffocate those insects that are overwintering in the cracks and crevices of the bark. 

October is the best month to select trees and shrubs with fall color. Genetically, plants may differ in their fall beauty, so what you see in the nursery is what you’ll have in your yard. 

If you see browning needles in your pines and spruces, do not panic. It is a normal phenomenon. In the fall these plants lose their oldest needles and keep three or four years of their newest growth. 

Rake up all aspen leaves to reduce the chance of revival of any leaf-related disease you may have experienced. Dispose of these leaves and do not add them to your compost pile or incorporate them into your vegetable garden.

Vegetable Gardens

Prepare your vegetable garden soil this fall following your harvest because amending soil in the spring can be delayed if wet conditions prevail. Add Premier sphagnum peat moss, manure and Nature’s Yield Compost now. It will age and decompose over the winter and provide for earlier and easier planting next spring.

Rototill shredded leaves, garden debris, grass clippings and kitchen scraps, (excluding meat products) into your garden this fall. They will compost over the winter and greatly improve your garden soil next spring. Be sure the organic matter is insect and disease free. 

Cut dead stalks of asparagus and trim raspberry canes which have borne fruit this year. Look for the leftover plugs at the top of the canes to tell which ones fruited this year. Divide rhubarb and transplant overcrowded roots after the first killing frost for improved production next year. 

Indoor Plants

Holiday cactus need special care to get beautiful flowers this December. Buds will form for the holidays if you keep artificial light off them at night starting in mid October. 

Your houseplants will benefit from a good leaching. Take them to your kitchen sink or bathtub and water twice or three times to remove built up soluble salts remaining from fertilizer or minerals from the water. If left, these salts can build up and burn the roots and browning the tips and margins of the leaves.

Amaryllis is the most majestic of all the holiday plants. To have blooms at Christmas, plant amaryllis bulbs 7-10 weeks earlier. Choose a pot about 2″ wider than the bulb and one that is heavy enough to keep from tipping. Fill the pot part way with potting mix. Set the bulb so that the top 1/3 of the bulb will be above the top of the soil when you fill the pot to 1″ below the top edge of the pot. Give the plant about 4 hours of bright light a day. Plant every 2 weeks for a spectacular color show all winter.

Feathered Friends

Feeding the birds outside during the winter is great fun for young and old alike. You do need to have the right foods for the birds you are trying to attract. Start early while there are plenty of birds around. Keep the feeding stations clean and full. Clean out bird houses and bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases for next year’s families. Be sure to supply a water source for birds during the winter time.

Water Features   

Get your pond ready for winter. Remove debris and clean the pond surface and filters. Remove old foliage and place plants into deeper water. Pond netting will keep fallen leaves and unwanted predators out of your pond. 

October is the time to clean the organic matter from the bottom of your pond. Remember the yucky sludge from your pond makes an excellent addition to your compost pile.

Set up a deicer or aerator in your pond to ensure one area remains unfrozen and gasses can exchange for fish.   

Empty fountains and remove pumps before freezing weather arrives. Cover fountains with fountain covers or bring them into the garage. Birdbaths must be coated with Thompson’s Water Sealant before winter if they are left outdoors. Use a birdbath heater to prevent the water from freezing. 

After October 15, (or when the water temperature falls below 50º F) feed fish Tetra Pond Spring and Fall Diet. Stop feeding fish once you see ice along the edges of the water in the morning. 


Be sure to rake your leaves in the fall, disposing of any diseased or insect-ridden leaves. Rake healthy leaves into a pile, chop them up with your lawn mower, and add the resulting mulch into your compost pile or rototill it into your garden. 

It pays to have good quality tools and keep them in good condition because it causes the least amount of damage or stress to plants. It’s also easier on the gardener as your work will go faster. 

Choose a pumpkin with a stem that is at least 2″ long. Pumpkins that are darker orange may last longer and are a bit tougher. When you get it home, clean it with soap and water to keep bacteria away. Protect from frost.

Stay warm while outside with a chimenea or fire pit. These outdoor “fireplaces” will keep you cozy warm while preparing your meal and entertaining outside.

Stop spiders, crickets, millipedes, earwigs and other bothersome bugs from coming into the house for the winter by spraying Green Thumb Home Pest Control around the foundation of your house and especially window wells. 

Fall is a great time to relax, enjoy your patio and cook outdoors. Try adding apple, hickory or mesquite chips to your grill for a unique flavor. 

Echter’s Plant Doctors are available during store hours seven days a week to answer
your gardening questions. For accurate diagnosis, it helps to bring in a sample.