The tenth month of the year is my undeniable favorite. For this is when the ancient maples and oaks at A Garden for the House become great, sweeping fireballs of vermillion and gold. I’ll take photographs at mid-month, the height of the Northeastern “leaf-peeping” season. In the meantime, here is the “To Do” list for October, which includes both outdoor and indoor gardening chores:
Leaves & Compost. Rake leaves from grass to avoid soggy matting. Many trees do not make light work, but think now of compost with all this lovely, leafy nitrogen ready to decay. A simple, out-of-sight leaf pile with a hollow in the center to catch rain will suffice. To hasten decomposition, first shred the leaves with either lawnmower or leaf-shredder. The resulting leaf mold is marvelous for both houseplants and garden beds. Indeed, only a foolish gardener would sweep leaves to the curb for town pick-up.
Peonies. Cut off foliage. Dig in a trowelful of bonemeal around each plant.
Chrysanthemums. If you don’t already have a chrysanthemum collection, by all means start one now. These are the brightest and best of all flowering perennials for the autumn show. Cut back tops when flowering ceases.
Bulbs. Plant as many daffodil, tulip, hyacinth, and crocus as you can. It’s impossible to have enough of these in spring.
Heuchera (Coralbells). You might want to edge a whole bed by dividing several of your large established clumps. Separate by pulling gently apart. Cut from the tap root only sections with some fine roots of their own.
Potatoes. It’s harvest time. On a sunny day, dig up the tubers, brush off dirt, and lay them in the sun for a few hours to cure. Then arrange for dark, cool (40-50 degrees) storage.
Petunia, Geranium. If you didn’t take cuttings of these prized potted annuals during summer, here is a salvage campaign that has worked for me. Knock the plant from its pot, sever enough roots to permit repotting into a much smaller pot, and then trim the foliage back to 2-3 inches. Place in a bright, humid, and cool (55-65 degree) location. Water once each week or less. In February, bring the plant to your sunniest window garden, and provide food and water regularly.
African violets. Place them in full sun as days grow shorter toward the end of the month.
Wax begonias. Place in your light or sunny windows for steady, unfailing bloom.
Christmas Cactus. Set the plant in a cold, dim place, and do not water for the entire month.
Scented Geraniums. Root cuttings of your favorites now. These will make wonderful Christmas and birthday presents for your plant-minded friends.
Paperwhite Narcissus. For Thanksgiving bloom, pot bulbs now. Autumn plantings take about 10 weeks to flower.
Dutch Hyacinths. Early this month, plant bulbs in either pebbles and water, soil, or in hyacinth jars. Set in a dark, cold (but not freezing) place for 12 weeks of rooting. (French-Roman varieties require only 5-6 weeks in cool darkness.)
Daffodils. Pot in soil, and permit 10-12 weeks of cold, dark storage.
Pachysandra. Pull up some rooted sections or take cuttings from outdoor groundcover areas. Insert stems in a floral “pin cushion” set in a shallow bowl. Plants will grow; cuttings will root. Pachysandra is picturesque on a windowsill, especially when placed between matching bowls of paperwhite narcissus.
Poinsettia. To achieve Christmas bloom, provide these short-day plants at least twelve hours of definite darkness for seventy days. A light-proof closet from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M. will do the trick.
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