From Al Krismer Plant Farm
October 2008

Dear Gardening Enthusiast,

Next spring, don't be haunted by thoughts of tasks you should have completed in October to ensure a good start to the growing season. By fall, most gardeners are tiring of garden chores, especially when there isn't much left to harvest, and thus no really good reason to visit the garden. But garden clean-up is essential both for the health of the soil and an early start on next year's garden. You'll be able to get into the garden sooner if you get the plot ready now


The gilding of the Indian summer mellowed the pastures far and wide. The russet woods stood ripe to be stripped, but were yet full of leaf. The purple of heath-bloom, faded but not withered, tinged the hills... Fieldhead gardens bore the seal of gentle decay; ... its time of flowers and even of fruit was over.

- Charlotte Brontë

Check October recipes at the bottom

Want to know more about pumpkins

Just click here

Annuals Perennials and Bulbs
  • Plant daffodils and tulips in groups of at least twelve or more bulbs. Plant small bulbs in groups of fifty or more. Bulbs planted of one variety and color in mass will have a spectacular visual impact
  • It will be time to think about digging and storing the tender bulbs, corms, and roots (cannas, dahlias, gladiolus, and tuberous begonias) that you planted in the spring. Once the first frost has discolored the foliage, dig out the bulbs, clean off the excess soil, and store them in a box of sawdust, peat moss, or vermiculite in a cool dry place until spring.
  • Watch your thermometer on colder nights. A windless, cold, clear night usually means a killing frost, but you can keep your chrysanthemums and asters blooming for a while longer if you provide a little frost protection for them. A small, simple frame covered with cheesecloth or an old bed sheet placed over your plants on frosty nights can add weeks more of garden blooms. Never use plastic for frost protection!
  • Mulching fall planted perennials will keep the soil warmer longer, allowing root growth to continue, however, the plants do need time to harden off for winter. Spread a thin layer of mulch after fall planting, and then add a thicker layer once the ground has frozen.
  • Tropical house plants should be brought indoors as by now. Don't wait until temperatures drop to freezing since cool autumn nights in the 40's can damage some sensitive plants.

Vegetables and Herbs

  • It's time to harvest winter squash and pumpkins! Leave them on the vine until the skins are hardened and frost has killed the vines. Handle carefully (cuts and bruises in the rind allow decay organisms to get in) and store in a single layer at a temperature of about 60°F. in a spot with low humidity.

    Read on for pumpkin recipes
    Alice's Favorite Pumpkin Recipes
  • Dig up herbs, repot in clay pots using high quality potting soil that will allow good drainage, and bring them indoors to a south-facing window that receives 5 hours of direct sunlight for use in the kitchen all winter.You can also pot up parsley, chives and rosemary to grow indoors.

    Read on for herbs as houseplants
  • Refrigerate or freeze ripe tomatoes. Wrap green tomatoes or hang the entire plants (with unpicked fruit) upside down. Alternatively these can be stored in a brown paper bag in a cool dark area
  • Gourds are a nice addition to centerpieces for the upcoming holidays. Harvest gourds when the stem dries but before the first frost. Wash in a dilute bleach solution, gently dry with a cloth then place gourds in a warm, well-ventilated area, but not in direct sunlight, which fades their colors. Curing takes one to six months, depending on the type of gourd. The outer skin hardens in a week or two, but it takes at least a month for the inside to dry. Poking a small nail-hole in the blossom-end of the gourd speeds the process. When you can shake the gourd and hear the seeds rattling, it is cured and ready for a coat of furniture wax, paint, or varnish.

    Read more about curing gourds
  • Remove all the plants from the vegetable garden after a killing frost. Spread a two to three inch layer of organic matter over the garden and till or dig in. Doing this in the fall will allow the organic matter to decompose and the garden will be ready for planting in the spring.
  • You can dry herbs quickly in the microwave oven. Place them between two paper towels and heat for one minute. Remove, let cool, and then test to see if the leaves are crisp. If not, return them to the oven for a few more seconds. Store in jars in a dark place to retain color and flavor.
  • The best pumpkins for carving have a flattened end to prevent tipping, but any size or shape will work. A good solid handle will make it easy to open and close the jack-o-lantern lid if you plan to put a candle inside. When cleaning the pumpkin out, don't forget to separate the seeds from the meat. These make a delicious snack when lightly stir-fried in oil and salted.


Garden Maintenance:

  • Protect your sprinkler system by turning it off and winterizing before the first killing frost. Also drain and winterize any water features in your yard. Drain and store garden hoses and sprinklers for winter.
    Read more

  • Fall is an excellent time for taking soil samples in your lawn and garden. Soil tests will measure the pH of the soil, organic matter content and the levels of some of the major elements required for plant growth, such as phosphorus and potassium
  • Plowing and incorporating organic matter in the fall avoids the rush of garden activities and waterlogged soil in spring. Fall-prepared soils also tend to warm faster and allow earlier planting in spring.
  • Remove any diseased or insect-infested plant material from your garden, it may harbor over- wintering stages of disease or insect pests. If you leave this plant material in your garden, you are leaving diseases and insects which will begin to reproduce again next spring and add to next years' pest problem.
  • Leaves falling from the trees along with vegetable and bedding plants dying off as the season draws to a close means there can be lots of plant material accumulating around the yard. That makes now the ideal time for starting a backyard compost pile.

    Click here for more info on composting
  • Continue watering lawns, trees, shrubs, vines and all new plantings until the rains come. Don't forget to water plants in sheltered areas. Well-watered plants survive freezing temperatures better than dry ones


Shrubs and Trees:

  • October and November are generally considered the best months to plant trees and shrubs. Garden centers and nurseries usually stock a good selection of woody plants at this time of year. Select some accent plants for your landscape that will provide autumn colors. Trees that turn red include dogwood, red maple, sweet gum, and red or scarlet oak. Shrubs with red fall foliage include viburnum, winged euonymus, and barberry.
  • Pick bagworms from evergreen shrubs. This will eliminate the spring hatch from over-wintered eggs.

    Read on for more info
  • Deciduous trees and shrubs should not be pruned at this time. However, continue to remove damaged or diseased branches to allow the plant to use its energy to prepare for dormancy rather than healing.
  • Light pruning of both needle and broadleaf evergreens is recommended in late fall to encourage a strong framework to help the plant overcome any snow damage.


Lawn Care:

  • Remove leaves from lawn to reduce lawn problems. Compost or shred and use them for mulch.
    Read on for more info
  • Rake leaves frequently so they don't smother the grass or contribute to next spring's snow mold disease; use healthy leaves as mulch or compost them
  • Mow the lawn right up to the end of the growing season to prevent matting, which will damage turf. Once grasses have stopped growing, the final mowing should be made with a height in the 2 - 2˝" range. Cutting the grass shorter means there won't be as much foliage to get diseased through winter
  • Be on the look out for chickweed in lawns. Days getting shorter and temperatures dropping signal the coming of the winter via fall. It also is a signal of the coming of winter annuals. One common winter annual in the tri-state area yards is common chickweed (Stellaria media). This weed often forms dense patches and can speckle a crushed rock driveway in the fall. In shady cool areas, such as under a tree, common chickweed may last throughout the summer becoming a perennial.

    Click here to learn more about controlling chickweed.

    Identifying chickweed

    Click here for more info on lawn weed control and identification
  • Fall lawn care can determine whether snow mold becomes a problem. Avoid excessive nitrogen applications in fall, mow the grass at 2 inches for the final fall mowing to prevent the grass from laying over, and rake tree leaves.


House Plants:

  • Both Christmas Cactus and Poinsettias need to be kept indoors in a spot where they get ten hours of bright light and fourteen hours of total darkness, each day. Room temperatures should be around 65 to 70 degrees for the Poinsettias, but cooler (around 55 to 60) for the Christmas cactus.

    Read on for more info Christmas cactus care
  • Poinsettia bracts or the colorful portion of the plant should be changing color by late October when forced indoors. Remember that poinsettias need at least 12.5 hours of complete darkness from late September until the bracts or colorful portion of the plant are fully developed.

    Read on for more info
  • Tropical house plants should be brought indoors as by now. Don't wait until temperatures drop to freezing since cool autumn nights in the 40's can damage some sensitive plants.

    Read on for more info
  • Bring geraniums indoors in mid-October. Prune this year's stem back to three buds from where it grew out from last year's growth, repot (be sure to check the leaves and root ball for insect pests), and place the plants in a cool, well-lit room for the winter.


Water Gardens Care::

  • When leaves get in the pond and decay, it will throw off the ecological balance of a water garden. One option is to use a net to skim leaves off the surface of the pond as they fall, but this can be a daily chore. Also, don't expect a skimmer type filter to get the leaves. Skimmers are designed to get the occasional leaf or other floating debris. Heavy leaf fall can clog a skimmer several times a day. Installing leaf netting over the pond will be easier to maintain.
  • The water temperature is dropping now and we should be feeding our fish less as their metabolism slows down. Hopefully you have been feeding your fish well with a high protein food this summer to allow them to build up a reserve of fat to help them through the winter. After the water temperature drops to the sixties you should decrease the amount of food given and feed only once a day.

    Read on for more info

    More Fall Pond care info
  • For deeper ponds, some plants, such as hardy water lilies, may be sunk to the bottom, as long as the surface of the pond doesn't completely freeze over. To prevent this, use a pond heater or insulate the sides of the pond with bags of pine needles or leaves. Koi and goldfish can be left in the pond if it won't ice over.

    Click here for more info on fall care of water gardens


Insect and Disease Control::

  • Prune oak trees in the dormant season so as not to increase the risk of oak wilt. Pruning from September to early March is recommended because pruning during the growing season attracts bark beetles, which transmit the oak wilt fungus. Oak wilt is a potential threat in all of Ohio and can kill mature oaks in one season.
  • Removal and burning (where possible), composting or burying plant debris will help reduce foliar and stem disease next year. It is usually safe to compost any leaf material, but diseased stem and root tissues should be burned or buried, not included in a compost pile.
  • Some insects, such as stalk borers and cucumber beetles, overwinter in garden residues or nearby weeds. Mowing weedy sites around the garden and tilling in or removing plant residues and composting them can help control these pests. Burning these residues just causes air pollution as well as wastes the carbon that helps improve soil quality. Corn borers can spend the winter inside corn stubble, so plowing under the stalks is important to reduce corn borer populations next year
  • Yellowjackets become more aggressive in the fall when they are feverishly searching out protein and sugar sources. Although they are the most aggressive of the wasps, yellowjackets usually do not attack unless they are protecting a food source or their nests, which are found in porous, dry ground. Make sure that trash containers are tightly sealed and be wary when treading in ground cover beds and other undisturbed parts of your landscape. Avoid wearing fuzzy, dark-colored clothing; yellowjackets have evolved to attack dark furry objects when confronted. If you do get stung, move indoors immediately because yellowjackets release a pheromone that attracts their nestmates and signals them to attack you as well.

    Click here for more info
  • Asian ladybird beetles may congregate in or near your home as the weather gets cooler. They are most attracted to white structures, where they commonly spend the winter in attics and other cool, frost-free areas. These ladybird beetles excrete a yellow liquid when disturbed. If the beetles are a nuisance, suck them up in your vacuum cleaner. Since they eat pest insects, you may want to use a clean vacuum cleaner bag and store the bag of beetles in your garage or basement until next spring when you can release them.

Garden Critters::

  • Your sunflowers may look past their best, but remember that birds love feasting on the seeds. It's also worth bearing in mind that children love growing sunflowers
  • With temperatures cooling off watch for any pests such as mice, chipmunks, and squirrels which might want to enter into warmer quarters.

    Controlling animal pests
  • Animals can ruin your bulb plantings. Some bulbs, including tulips and crocus, make favorite foods for pests such as deer or squirrels. Others, such as daffodils, fritillaries, alliums or many of the special Bulbs, are not appealing to animal pests. If deer are a problem in your area, planting pest-resistant varieties makes good sense. If squirrels are the issue, it’s a good idea to put chicken wire over the bed or place a few old window screens over bulb beds after planting, while the ground settles, removing them once the weather turns. Chicken wire can be left in place all winter - the bulbs will bloom right through it in spring. In all cases it’s a good idea to clean up after planting. Planting supplies and bits of the bulbs’ papery tunics left on the ground just sends bulb-sniffing critters a signal there is buried treasure nearby.
  • Cold weather will bring birds flocking to bird feeders. If you’d like to try feeding birds, now is the time to start. Black-oil sunflower seeds are absolutely the best to start with; accept no substitute! Inquisitive chickadees, our state bird, will be the first to discover your feeder.
  • When to feed: It’s good to feed birds now through April at least. But, if you have to go away for a few weeks, don’t feel guilty about your birds. It is a myth that they become dependent on your feeder. Several careful studies have shown that all “feeder birds” eat 80% wild food, and only 20% feeder food, typically acquired from several different feeders



Recipes for October
















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