Well, it’s just about the end of the gardening season. This is the time of year that resent transplants to the northwest discover the difference between rain resistance and waterproof. We generally get about 6 inches of much needed but deeply resented rain this month. Our winter rains usually come inland on warm winds from the Pacific Ocean on what locals refer to as the Pineapple express. These fronts are basically southern extensions of the Polar jet stream and are the main reason our winters are usually so mild. Here in the Northwest we traditionally have relatively warm weather with few deep freezes and lot’s of precipitation to keep our forests mossy, mushroomy and green. But who knows what the future weather will bring especially after the crazy cold and dry winter we had last year – it’s best to be prepared. Remember there is no bad weather just bad outerwear!
If you are hard core – invest in a good jacket and finish up the last of the seasons garden projects.
– Check for garden journal and give yourself a hearty congratulations on a great year!. Make notes on what did and did not work in the garden. Plan for additions or subtractions. Make a calendar of events to help you remember planting, pruning or any other important dates for the coming season.
– Freshen up potted containers with winter interest or fill with colorful cut branches or mosses gathered from the roof.
– It’s not to late to mulch but wet mulch is much harden to spread that dry. Also, be cautious of using bark which if overused can rob the soil of nitrogen. Never pile mulch thickly around the base of trees and shrubs as it can harbor disease and pests.
– Wrap tender plants with burlap.
– Drain hoses and store, turn off water supply to prevent freezing.
– Wet soil makes pulling blackberries, scotch broom and wild brambles much easier and satisfying to boot!
– Destroy any leaves and plants that may contain diseases like mildew or black spot that infected your summer crops. These diseases can survive in the soil to reemerge zombie like to attack next season.
– Turn over water pots. Empty pots of annuals and clean the containers to prevent diseases. Permanent plantings may prefer to be moved to a sheltered location out of the wind but even these plants will need some winter water so don’t completely cover.
– This is a great time for cutting away dead growth and raking away leaves and spent flower stalks. But while this will tidy up your beds it will also take away winter seeds for foraging birds and hibernation spots for beneficial insects. Consider leaving a few little piles or construct a beneficial bug condo.
– If you have a cold frame then greens and leeks can keep on producing into the winter.
– Make yourself a pot of tea from the mint you harvested in the summer and enjoy a bit of a break from your garden. Maybe even pack a thermos and go for a hike to “soak” in some of the beauty of The Pacific Northwest.
As our gardens begin to show the effects of the summer heat and now the cooler night temperatures, plants turn from lush greens to the colors of Fall – gorgeous umber and sepia tones, goldenrod and red. Petals drop, leaves fade and the graceful lines of plant structure emerge. The pattern of branch formations are finally visible and the striking textures of various bark that was hidden all Summer is now on display.
Weather can be highly variable this month. We can expect our first night frosts by mid month but these last weeks have been a glorious Indian summer with warm days and just a scattering of rain to freshen up the garden. Look for a pink tinge in the morning sky as this often means rain is on it’s way but a little moisture really makes for a perfect time to work the garden.
Here are some tips on gardening in October:
Pick a bouquet of branches and spent grasses, dried seedpods or evergreens to bring indoors.
Harvest late apples, pears, pumpkins or quince. Once the frosts come they will be damaged. Gather walnuts as well and store in a warm dry spot until heady to crack.
One last round of weeding will go a long way toward easing Spring clean up.
This is a great time of year to mulch with a compost, manure or composted bark to clean up beds and keep down weeds over the winter.
Continue planting bulbs for spring and summer blooms.
Its still perfectly fine to plant perennials now and since the rains are coming it will be much less work for you.
Start ground covers so they can spread out over the winter and come up full and fresh in the spring.
Cut back non shrub roses to protect from winter winds.
Move potted containers to a protected location where they will not fill with water and crack.
There is still time to seed some cover crops if planted early in the month. Cover crops in veggie patches help to keep soil in beds, they fix nitrogen, keep down weeds and give you something to look at besides bare dirt all winter long.
Pot up bulbs like narcissus and amaryllis to force for the holidays.
Bring in tender house plants that have spent the summer on the patio. Check for pests hitchiking indoors and give them a nice warm shower to clean leaves before the move inside.