From Al Krismer Plant Farm
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
recipes at the bottom
Want to know more about pumpkins
Annuals Perennials and
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- Remove leaves from lawn to reduce lawn
problems. Compost or shred and use them for mulch.
- 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.
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Monthly Garden Tips are sent out
by Al Krismer Plant Farm during the year. Look for the Tips and the
expanded e-news before the 10th of the month. Quick Links below.
The purpose of the website links and other news articles is to provide
information to the reader and in no way implies a particular endorsement
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within the website
Ohio State Fact Sheets
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Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden 2005 Best of the Zoo's Annuals