This is still a busy month for gardeners with some harvesting to do and lots of readying the garden for winter. The garden never sleeps. The leaves may be falling and the foliage may have died back, but there is crazy activity going on under the soil surface. Rejuvenation and creation are in full swing.
Alas, it is an especially dicey time of year for plant-a-holics. Oh, the sweet guilty pleasure of hitting the “send” button on the computer for those naughty impulse purchases! I can rationalize a lot when I think about spring blooms.
The average frost date falls somewhere between Sept. 14 and Oct. 15. It’s time to protect your cold-sensitive plants, do some planting, and do selective garden clean up.
Sanitation is important. Clean up debris in spent veggie beds that is vital to reducing potential for over-wintering pests and diseases, then plant a cover crop to nourish the soil and discourage weeds.
A neat ornamental garden bed might be encoded into your genes but fight the inclination. If your sanity depends on autumn tidying, “Leave some litters for the critters.” Leaves and piles of sticks provide essential cover for the life above and below the soil, especially under oak trees. Check out Doug Tallamy’s books or YouTube videos.
Weed, weed, weed. The health of your back and landscape will thank you in the spring.
Mulch is best applied after planting bulbs and for planting trees or shrubs after a thorough watering.
Fertilize and water roses, but do not prune until the forsythia bloom.
Plant trees, shrubs, pansies, violas, bulbs, and perennials. Direct seed fava beans and cool weather vegetable transplants. Have row covers ready to protect producing vegetables.
Lift tender perennials, dry, and store them in a cool protected place. Climate change has tricked some cold-sensitive perennials into surviving the winter. A surprising example of this in my own garden has been the elephant ears that resurfaced this summer!
Maintain garden tools. Sharpen, clean, and oil wooden handles (sand if needed). Don’t forget to sharpen your mower blade.
Clean ponds. Too much debris will “sour” the water and set it up for failure. Remove tropical pond plants.
Clean bird houses, fountains, birdbaths, and feeders. Don’t forget the bug houses.
Restrict pruning to dead, damaged, or rubbing/crossing branches.
It’s a great time to edit out the plants that don’t harmonize with your garden scheme or available time/inclination to maintain the landscape. Garden friends will love you for sharing!
It’s also the time to plan next year’s garden so you can optimize bed space. Plan crop rotation. We know “no-dig” is the way to go. The worms are tirelessly bringing the organic matter down into the soil. Make notes about what was and was not successful this year so you can repeat what works.
As always, check the Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley, for garden guidance this month. Also, the OSU website in invaluable.
Lastly, Covid will require us to be creative and determined to maintain our gardener friends for our own well-being and theirs during the gray months of winter. Be safe. Be well.