Your October Garden Checklist

By Staff
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Your October Garden Checklist

By Annie Thornton, Houzz

I like having options — from which flavor of tea to drink after lunch to which route I’ll take to walk home. Gardening this month is no different. Whether you’re after garden chores or perhaps some seasonal puttering, it’s all about picking your own path. 

You can prep soil for spring planting, divide grasses and transplant perennials, even tuck in more cool-season edibles. Alternatively, you can just enjoy fall’s splendor and put off some of the season’s more tedious tasks. Let fallen leaves provide hearty mulch for your lawns and hold off, for now, on cutting back spent summer and fall plants. Instead, take some time to sit back and watch the leaves change. It’s your garden, so enjoy it. Here’s what you can do in your garden this October. 

Browse Thousands of Landscape Ideas 

Pomegranate Tree, original photo on Houzz


Garden editor Bill Marken suggests potting trees and shrubs for a permanent and festive seasonal touch. 

“Pomegranates symbolize fall in Mediterranean climates,” Marken writes. “Like early Christmas ornaments, the fat, round red fruits hang heavy on spindly branches along with small leaves turning an autumn yellow. For a container, look for a dwarf variety such as ‘Nana’, displaying fall foliage and tiny red fruits if you’re lucky.”


Water management is still important this month. “Continue to monitor and reset the timers on any controllers you may have, especially in the low and middle zones. As temperatures decrease, reduce the water needed,” writes New Mexico landscape designer David Cristiani.

“If you are planning a landscape for a barren area or for an area outside plant roots, create water harvesting opportunities to benefit plantings and some visual interest by installing subtle basins, swales and berms away from structures, where lush plantings are desired,” he says. 

J. Peterson Garden Design, original photo on Houzz


It’s not too late for fall edibles. “Cool-season vegetables are so plentiful and nutritious, so try to tuck in a few new ones this year,” writes landscape designer Jenny Peterson. “Broccoli, turnips, cauliflower, spinach, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, lettuce, collards and other greens can be planted now. If you are expecting a hard freeze, consider adding some row cover to protect your veggies, but otherwise these plants will take the crisper weather in stride and give you months of produce.”

Rocky Mountains

“Planning to install a new vegetable or flower garden next spring? Now’s a great time to prepare the soil,”writes Colorado landscape designer Jocelyn Chilvers. “Use organic amendments to increase water- and nutrient-holding capacity and to improve aeration and water flow. Adding amendments now allows you to work in the garden while the soil is relatively dry, thus preventing the potential for soil compaction that can occur if you try to do it during the wet months of early spring. Come springtime the soil will be ready to plant.”

Le jardinet, original photo on Houzz


“Refresh your container gardens with a selection of winter-hardy evergreen shrubs, perennials and seasonal color spots,” says landscape designer Karen Chapman.

For a festive fall arrangement, she says that “small conifers, bright spurge (Euphorbia spp) and evergreen sedums are easy candidates for containers — especially when dressed up with a few cheerful pansies.” 

It’s also time to plant spring-blooming bulbs — even in containers. “Dwarf daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses are just a few of the possibilities,” Chapman says. 

Central Plains

Wondering what to do with all that fallen foliage? “Don’t rake leaves; mulch them with a mower,” writes Nebraska garden consultant Benjamin Vogt. “Those finely ground leaves are free fertilizer for lawns. If you would rather rake, toss the leaves into garden beds — over winter and early spring, they’ll break down completely and add rich topsoil. Maybe you’ll even want to ‘steal’ unwanted bags of them from your neighbors’ driveways.” 

Barbara Pintozzi, original photo on Houzz

Great Lakes

“While the autumn color often continues into November, the big show comes in October, as shown with this sumac (Rhus copallina),” writes Illinois garden coach Barbara Pintozzi. “Foliage’s dramatic color change is the result of cool nights and sunny days.”

Related: Great Design Tree – Japanese Maple 


Transplant and divide plants on mild, cloudy days this month. “Rejuvenate ornamental grasses through division,” writes Vermont landscape consultant Charlotte Albers. “It’s a big job — especially if they’re large clumps of maiden grass (Miscanthus spp) — so make sure you have a pruning saw for cutting through the dense root fibers. Discard the center of plant and cut the outer portions into sections for replanting.” 


“Herbs are abundant all fall, but they will disappear sooner than you can say ‘Jack’ when frost comes knocking,” says garden writer Amy Renea. “Harvest mint, lemon balm, rosemary and others to preserve them for the winter. Dry the herbs, chop and freeze them or use them in soaps for fresh herbs all winter.” 

Renea suggests “making your own tea mixes for winter. I combine stevia with various herbs for unique and cheap teas. As long as I have fresh herbs, though, I’ll brew up a batch every single evening until my luck runs out.” 

Gardening with Confidence, original photo on Houzz


When prepping the garden for winter, “Don’t be so quick to tidy up,”says North Carolina garden writer Helen Yoest. “The remains of the summer and fall garden give shelter, food and cover for wildlife, while also adding winter interest to garden beds.”

Shown here “is a praying mantis egg case I found one year while cutting back my garden,” she continues. “It was at this point I learned to slow down my fall pruning until the spring, when the leaves were cleared away and overwintering wildlife was easier to see.” 

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