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Gardening Tips: October

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Fall needle drop:
Just as deciduous trees change color and loose their leaves in the fall, so do evergreens. By mid to late October, most evergreens start to turn yellow on the inside of the plant. This is a perfectly natural occurrence; as the needles drop and build up under the plant, they act as very good natural mulch. These needles will retain moisture and break down to add organic matter to the plant.

Planting spring bulbs:
Fall is the time of the year for planting Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths, Crocuses, and many other varieties of spring flowering bulbs. Check the bags for planting instructions, it is important to plant these bulbs at the right depth. Never put fertilizer directly in the bottom of the planting hole as this will burn the roots as they emerge. It is better to top dress with a granular fertilizer in the spring as the bulbs emerge or mix a slow-release fertilizer into the soil before planting. Make sure you plant enough bulbs to make a good showing. When too few bulbs are planted, you don’t get the colorful effect you expected. Plant bulbs in groupings rather then in straight lines. Some bulbs, other than those in the daffodil family, can be damaged by rodents (mice, squirrels, and chipmunks) looking for food during the winter months. Also, deer can be very destructive mainly to Tulip and Crocus bulbs. Try to plant these varieties closer to the house or in higher traffic areas to keep these animals away. Lay wire fencing over the area to keep deer and rodents from digging and destroying the bulbs.

Fall cleanup:
As late October comes to central Pennsylvania, most deciduous trees have turned color and are starting to drop. Rake the heavy piles of leaves from the turf before mowing. As the leaf drop gets lighter, use a mulching mower to chop up the leaf litter to a fine confetti that will drop down to the thatch layer to mulch the lawn for the winter. At the last mowing, lower the blades to about two inches; the shorter turf will not mat under the snow and develop mold disease. Cleanup all leaves under shrubs and trees; this makes great compost, if you have the area to work with it. This material takes some time to break down to get a usable organic compost.