As October ushers in cooler temperatures and vibrant fall foliage, the garden undergoes a transformation. And though nature is preparing for winter slumber, your gardening tasks are far from over. Let’s explore the top garden tips for October in the Pacific Northwest’s Zone 8.
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October is a time that paints the garden with the warm hues of autumn and the air begins to carry the chill of impending winter. Right now gardeners find themselves at a crossroads, navigating the shift in seasons. It’s a time when the world around us is slowing down, preparing for the months of slumber ahead.
But, in the garden, there’s no time to rest just yet. October is a month of crucial tasks, a time for safeguarding and nurturing, ensuring that your garden not only survives the winter but thrives when spring returns. In this guide, we’ll delve into the top garden tips for October, like protecting your soil, putting fallen leaves to work, and preparing your garden for the months of change ahead.
Protect Your Soil for Winter
Soil is the lifeblood of your garden, and protecting it in October is THE MOST important thing you can do. Exposed soil will get battered by harsh weather and leach nutrients all winter long.
- Growing a Winter Garden: Consider planting cold-hardy crops like kale, spinach, and garlic to keep the soil covered and productive.
- Using Cover Crops: Austrian field peas and fava beans make excellent choices for late planting, enriching the soil during the dormant season.
- Mulching: Apply a generous layer of mulch to insulate the soil, keeping it warm and nutrient-rich.
- Leave the Weeds: As long as they’re not going to seed, some weeds can offer protection to the soil
Leave the Leaves
When the leaves start to fall, resist the urge to immediately rake them up. These fallen leaves can serve as valuable resources for your garden:
- Nutrient Breakdown: As leaves decompose, they release essential nutrients into the soil.
- Natural Mulch: Leaf litter acts as a natural mulch, insulating the soil and regulating its temperature.
- Winter Shelter for Bugs: Leaves provide shelter for beneficial insects, ensuring they survive through the winter.
Bring in Freeze-Prone Items
You can expect the first freeze to happen during October, so it’s essential to bring inside any garden items susceptible to freezing or cracking. Think drip irrigation lines, birdbaths, patio furniture, and delicate garden art. Protecting these items will extend their lifespan.
Apply Compost to Everything
Incorporate compost into your garden beds during the fall. This not only acts as mulch but also provides a cozy environment for earthworms. Over the winter, these diligent workers will enhance your soil quality, resulting in healthier plants come spring.
How can I compost at home?
To get started, you’ll need a compost bin or pile in a well-ventilated area. Add a mix of green materials (like kitchen scraps and fresh yard waste) and brown materials (such as dried leaves and cardboard) to your bin. Ensure a good balance between these two types to create the right conditions for decomposition.
Turn or mix the contents regularly to aerate and speed up the process. Keep the pile moist but not soggy, and within a few months to a year, you’ll have nutrient-rich compost to enhance your garden’s fertility. Avoid adding meat, dairy, or diseased plant materials, as these can attract pests or pathogens. With a little effort and patience, home composting can be a rewarding and eco-friendly way to manage organic waste while boosting your garden’s health.
Learn about how to start composting today for $3 or less
Remove Diseased Plants From Your Property
Before winter sets in, inspect your garden for diseased plants. Remove them promptly and dispose of them properly, either by trashing them or burning them. Avoid adding diseased plants to your compost pile to prevent future problems in your garden.
Are there plants you shouldn’t compost?
Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid composting diseased plant materials, as the pathogens can survive the composting process and potentially infect your garden when you use the compost. It’s also best to not compost weeds that have gone to seed, as this may result in weed growth in your garden when you use the compost. Invasive or aggressive plants should be avoided too, as they might reestablish themselves in your garden from the compost. Lastly, refrain from composting plants treated with pesticides or herbicides, as these chemicals can persist in the compost and harm beneficial microorganisms or plants in your garden.
Start Checking Your Pumpkins and Gourds
October is the month for winter squash to mature. Use the fingernail test to determine if it’s time to get pumpkin picking. If your fingernail leaves a mark in the flesh, the gourd is not ready. Harvest and store them when the skin has fully hardened, ensuring a bountiful supply for the winter.
See the fingernail test in action here.
Start Planting Garlic
The end of October is the ideal time to plant garlic in Zone 8. Typically, it’s done shortly after the first frost. We usually start in late October and finish in early November.
Learn more about how to plant garlic here.
Wondering what type of garlic to plant? Learn more about choosing the best garlic to plant in your area.
Plant New Trees
October is the perfect time to plant new trees and shrubs. They have ample time to establish their roots before winter while not growing enough to be damaged by frost. Consider adding fruit trees, nut trees, and decorative trees to enhance your landscape.
Learn more about our experience planting fruit trees here.
What to do before planting fruit trees?
First, choose a suitable location with well-drained soil and adequate sunlight. Test the soil’s pH and nutrient levels to determine if any amendments are necessary. Prepare the planting hole by digging it wide and deep enough to accommodate the tree’s roots comfortably. Remove any weeds or grass from the area.
When planting, be sure to position the tree at the same depth it was in the nursery, water it thoroughly, and add mulch around the base to conserve moisture and deter weeds. Lastly, establish a regular watering and pruning routine, and consider pest and disease management strategies to keep your fruit trees thriving.
Protect Leafy Greens From Fall Rains
This month will bring heavy fall rains, so delicate plants and leafy greens will need protection. Use row covers to shield them from the wind and precipitation.
Learn more about how to build a row-cover hoop house here.
Plant Flowers for Spring
Now is the perfect time to direct sow certain flower seeds to get a jump start on spring. If you want early blooms and stronger plants, direct sowing in the fall is the secret. In zone *, October offers the ideal conditions for many flowers to take root and establish before the cold sets in.
Consider sowing the seeds of hardy annuals like poppies, larkspur, calendula, and sweet peas. So clear a spot in the garden, grab your trowel, and sow a bit of enchantment this fall. With a little care and patience, you’ll be rewarded with a garden full of beauty when the world awakens from its winter slumber.
And don’t neglect your spring bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and more.
Learn more about the best flower bulbs to plant in fall here.
Learn more about why you should be growing poppies here.
Direct Sow Onion Seeds
Early October is the right time to direct sow onion seeds, setting the stage for a bountiful harvest next year. Onions thrive in the cool days of autumn, allowing their roots to establish before winter’s chill sets in. And planting them now instead of spring will allow ample time for bulbs to grow. In fact, if you want true, giant Walla Walla onions, you HAVE to plant in seeds in autumn.
Hunt for Garden Sales
As the gardening season draws to a close, keep an eye out for end-of-season sales at garden supply stores. Stock up on fertilizer and take advantage of discounted garden equipment, turning these autumn deals into long-term savings.
October may signify the transition to a slower pace in the garden, but it’s a pivotal time for gardeners. By following these October gardening tips, you can protect your soil, enrich your garden, and prepare for a fruitful spring. Embrace the changing seasons, and let your garden thrive through this period of transformation.
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