When October rolled in, so did the rains. As record rainfall fell across the south, we saw a steady rain for weeks with only one sunny day breaking it all up. Needless to say, the garden chores got put on hold as we waited out the weather. Now that the washout is over, we are scrambling to make the best out of what’s left in this fall season.
Our personal October garden chores definitely include some catching up. Plus there are plenty more to-do’s on our list in the weeks ahead. There is still a lot of life in the fall garden, and it’s time to get outside and soak up the last few weeks before our frost date arrives.
In the veggie garden
Harvest everything you can this month.
Dig sweet potatoes in the next couple of weeks. The last of the winter squash and pumpkins can be harvested as they ripen only harvesting immature fruits before the first frost.
Let tomatoes linger if they appear to be ripening on the vine. As the threat of frost begins to loom, pick any that begin to show any tinges of red, pink, or orange and bring them inside to ripen.
Plant cool season cover crops.
It’s not too late to sow types of cover crops in your garden. As you clear out your summer vegetables, plant areas that are vacant with crops like oats and barley. Adding cover crops to your garden feeds soil life while adding nutrients and eventually organic matter back into the soil. You will see a significant improvement in the health of your soil in the spring time.
Garlic gets planted in the fall and overwinters in the ground. Come springtime, garlic is one of the early signs of life in the garden. It continues to grow into the summer and harvested when the leaves begin to yellow. Plant garlic cloves in fertile well-drained soil. Mulch garlic with 3-4” of straw or leaf mulch to help protect it through the winter temperatures.
A single rhubarb plant can turn into a patch of rhubarb over a few years. If your rhubarb has exceeded its garden limits or is an older plant that needs rejuvenation, fall is the time to divide the rhubarb crown. Carefully dig the rhubarb out of the ground by loosening the soil around the roots. Use a sharp spade to slice the crown into a number of plants. Replant these crowns into prepared garden beds immediately.
Prepare sheet mulch beds now for spring.
Sheet mulching is one of the easiest and best ways to start a new garden bed or renovate an old one. For a spring planting, now is the best time to start a sheet mulch bed. Plus, it’s a great way to use up some falling leaves.
Collect fall’s gold.
Start gathering all those leaves in a pile beside your existing compost. When you start a new compost pile, use the stockpile of leaves to get things going. Another great way to use them is to let the leaf piles partially decompose and spread leaf mold as a mulch to improve soil.
Load up on mulch.
It’s best to order in bulk to get the best price and avoid the waste of the plastic mulch bags. Many nurseries will even deliver a truck load you. As you clean up your gardens in the fall, spread the compost across your gardens.
The other great option is to contact local tree companies to get on their lists for free wood chips. We overzealously signed up for a handful online and loaded up.
A little fall maintenance
Do a little pruning.
Keep an eye out for any dead, damaged, or diseased wood in trees and shrubs. Prune them out as you discover them. The falling leaves always reveal all kinds of pruning opportunities.
Give beds one last edging if they need it.
This will help keep a crisp edge to your garden beds through the rest of the fall and winter. Most of your garden beds will still have a nice edge when spring arrives.
Clean up fruit trees.
Remove any leftover fruits on the tree or on the ground around it and keep the area under the tree clear of fallen leaves and other debris. This helps reduce the amounts of pests and disease that may overwinter in organic matter.
Fight back the poison ivy.
Poison ivy is one of the earlier plants to start to lose its leaves, but it’s easy to spot in the fall with its vibrant colors. The best way to naturally combat it and remove it for good is to dig it out manually. With the cool weather upon us, I like to suit up covering as much skin as possible and dig the vines out anywhere I can find them. If I miss any or a few sprigs grow back in the spring, I knock them back with my homemade weed killer.
Bring your houseplants inside.
Pay close attention to the nighttime temperatures if you still have houseplants or tropicals outside. Start transitioning your houseplants back inside if you have not already. By the end of the month, any houseplants or tropicals that can’t take freezing temperatures should be brought inside for the winter. We like to give a few plants some time outside on warm sunny winter days to soak up what sunshine they can. Then, they go right back inside and wait for the winter to be over.