A GROWING CONCERN: Don’t be frightened of October chores

OCTOBER — THE BEWITCHING month, the day of the dead, which is what your garden could turn into if you don’t work away.

That’s because of the rapidly changing weather conditions. So October is an important time for your lawn and garden.

Here’s what you need to do:

Plant bulbs

Yes, that’s correct. The end of October and November are the optimum time to plant bulbs.

When planting, think the more the merrier.

Bone meal is a must. Why plant two different flower blooming time bulbs in the same place when you can plant three or four?

You must water them in, and again, several times.

Take cuttings now

Jack Frost is making his travel plans and soon will be visiting the Peninsula.

Your yard is one of his sights to see.

Before cold damage occurs, take cuttings, strip them, clean them, dip them in rooting hormone (root tone), then stick and mist several times.

For any plants you wish to move indoors, clean out, strip old leaves and flowers, and pinch back — they’re your cuttings.

Spray down hard and start bringing plants inside to your nice warm house at night because fall will soon destroy or harden them.

Clean up

Because of this weather change, which predominantly means cooler, wetter, moist conditions, are ideal for the multitude of lawn and garden diseases.

Mold, mildews, fungi and rust all pick fall as their favorite time of year.

Removing the prime breeding grounds, which is dying flowers, old worn-out leaves, dried stalks and stems, eliminates most of the problem and is chemical-free.

Continually this month, go out and cut away as needed.

Equipment and tools

Here is really an important job and worth its weight in BenGay.

You are going to be using many tools this month, so use a rainy day to perform general maintenance on them.

Dull blades tear, rather than cut, plant tissue and cause disease.

Sharpen the lawn mower blades, pruning shears and saw blade.

File down the scissors and loppers. Clean and oil the pruners, and maybe even get a new blade.

Change the fluids on all your power equipment, filters, too.

Wirebrush down and sharpen your shovels. Tighten the bolts on your hand tools.

This is the perfect month.

Get those leaves

Do not rake your leaves until they are done falling off your neighbor’s trees.

Definitely get them off your garden where they smother and rot out perennials.

Remember you can always clear off the leaves from the sidewalks and driveways, and do quick clean up from the massive maple leaf drop.

Short lawn

Now is the time to take the mower off the highest setting and set it to the lowest it will go without scalping.

Wait until you know it will be cool and overcast for a few days, then cut away. And please, lime it this month.

In fact, if ever you wanted to go organic, October is the month.

So go to a local farm and feed store or your local plant vendor and get Milorganite, blood meal, bone meal, kelp meal, cottonseed meal, green sand, potash and even Epsom salts. Treat your lawn to a slow-release organic feed this fall and reap the rewards in the spring.


Take all the leaves and grass you’ve collected and get a compost pile going or add a new one.

October is a prime month for organic leafy refuse. Mixed along with sticks, other prunings of plants and the coming rain, autumn is a compost-maker’s paradise.

Never put diseased material in your compost pile though.

Sew perennial, wildflower seed

October is the month of natural germination for the required cooling and dormancy needed for perennial germination.

If ever you wanted a pasture of wildflowers or if you just want a lot of lupine, delphinium or foxglove around, buy a lot of that seed and sow in October.

Water in, sow in the rain and there’s nothing to it but to read the label, broadcast, wait and enjoy.

Tend to the roses

Oh boy. Here I get into trouble again.

This is only my advice, some books offer others. October is a great time to stop harvesting flowers. Go out now for the next two weeks and cut flowers away.

Enjoy roses in all rooms and bring them to family, friends and workplaces,too.

For the second half of the month and the rest of the year, do not harvest or prune.

Pluck off those petals before a plethora of molds come in and enjoy the rose hips as they mature to autumn shades of red, orange, bronze and tan.

Strip off old, big, worn out, diseased leaves now, but do a really thorough job the last week of October.

Also, a bone meal treatment now and a fresh layer of compost or really decomposed mulch is heaven-sent.

Mulch the garden

Roses don’t get all the glory. After each area of the garden goes to fall, clean it up and mulch.

Anything that comes back next year or any soil used for production next year wants mulching.

Thick compost or mulch keeps the weeds down and protects against the fall and winter eroding rains.

Deep soil conditions the ground with organic nutrients that build up and enrich our Peninsula soils.

Divide your perennials

Transplant those misplaced plants.

Trim and stick strawberry runners.

Plant those potted lilies.

October is the time.

As you see that plants go dormant, drop leaves or turn color — replant it.

Overseed the lawn

It’s so simple.

Do you want a nice lawn? Get a really big bag of good grass seed and sow your yard in the rain.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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