Ok, so technically fall has arrived. The heat of September is still hanging around, but the days are definitely getting shorter. October is probably one of the busiest months for gardeners. So let’s get started!
Planting in fall is phenomenal for a bunch of reasons. Roots have a chance to get established before our summer heat returns. We typically don’t have a freeze until late November or early December. October tends to be one of our good months for consistent rain. So here’s a list of great plants to sink into the ground this fall: perennials, shrubs and clumping grasses. It’s time to put wildflowers in such as bluebonnets, phlox, Mexican hat, Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket (gaillardia) into areas of the yard where you will not be mowing.
Plant herbs such as cilantro seeds or transplants, parsley, dill, fennel, chervil, summer savory, borage. There’s still time to put in beets, collards, Swiss chard, leaf lettuce, mustard greens and radishes for your fall vegetable garden.
This month is a great time to do all kinds of prep work in various areas of your lawn and garden. Add compost and an organic fertilizer to your vegetable beds if you haven’t already accomplished this. It’s also a good time to put in your fall/winter cover crops in those dormant vegetable beds. Our Veggie Team uses Elbon (cereal) rye. You may also like to use hairy vetch, clover, Austrian peas or annual rye as a cover crop. I’m trying peas as a cover crop for parts of my lawn this winter for two reasons. One as a food for my wildlife, and secondly as a nitrogen fixer for my soil.
This month is the best for planning where you will be putting your perennials. I see so many beds (some of ours included) where not enough room is allowed for the spread of a perennial. If they are placed in the right spot, some perennials take up large amounts of space when they reach maturity. Don’t be fooled by the size of a plant in a one-gallon container. Be sure and read the tags or do research to find out the final height and width of a plant. Don’t forget to allow air space around it to keep diseases at bay. Remember, not all perennials are raised to grown in our area.
Seed collecting is great right now! We are collecting salvia, the last of the zinnias, Joe Pye weed, milkweed, and the last of some sunflowers in the Demonstration gardens. Later this month there should be passionvine or Maypop seed pods to collect.
Look through the bulb catalogs and decide what bulbs you want to naturalize in the yard and which ones you want to put in pots. If you don’t buy them at a sale or nursery, use a catalog that has varieties that do well in our short winter chill hours.
Clean hummingbird feeders! The sugar water preparation can collect bacteria quickly and hummingbirds can die from dirty feeders. Also, keep an eye out on your feeders for the normally helpful praying mantids hanging around on hummingbird feeders. Although rare, praying mantids have been documented as killing hummingbirds at feeders.
Although we are in October, the heat and humidity are still here. If it hasn’t rained on your yard in a week or more, you still need to water. Due to our humidity, avoid watering at night or in the evening. Stick to watering in the morning or setting your irrigation system timer for early morning.
If you have dead grass, you can make a choice to replace with St. Augustine sod, or decide if you want to minimize your lawn and put a flower, butterfly or perennial bed in instead. Winterize the lawn that you still have left. An organic, slow release fertilizer is just what the grass needs to get ready for cold weather. Always check the bag to make sure of the recommended procedure. Many suggest waiting for daytime temperatures to dip below 90 degrees, and often they suggest a good watering after application to prevent burn. Avoid products with too much nitrogen. A ratio of 8-2-4 is suggested for this time of year.
Mow your lawn on a high setting to fend off weed seeds that are germinating. Taller grass shades them out. Try 4 or 4.5 inches. Be sure that your lawn is well-watered, but not soggy. A healthy lawn is one of the first blockades to keeping fire ants out.
For more information on what to do in your yard or garden during October, call the Walker County Master Gardeners at 936-435-2426. Gardeners are typically ‘in’ on Thursday mornings at the Walker County AgriLife Extension office. You can also ask about soil tests by calling the same number.
The Walker County AgriLife office is also on Facebook. WalkerCoTxAgrilife has been established to provide updates and information to Walker County residents and landowners on a timely basis. The Walker County Master Gardeners are also on Facebook! Check out both of these Facebook pages and hit "like" to join.