Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Monday, October 1, 2018

What to Plant in the October Garden

Greetings gardening friends!

I hope the first month of autumn finds you happy and healthy. Our autumn has begun with brilliant sunny days in the 80s, thunderstorms, fog, and cool nights in the low 50s. In my experience October is a mild month with plenty of opportunity to garden and be out walking and hiking in nature. According to the NOAA in October on average we receive 9 days of rain with an average high/low temperature of 63/48 degrees.

Depending on what source you look at our average first frost date is anywhere from October 15-December 15. During the past few years I've observed our first frost to arrive later in that range around November 15. That's bad news for climate change and good news for gardeners and extends our growing season just a little bit longer.

Did you know that in Portland, autumn is considered our second planting season for the ornamental garden? This is a spectacular season for planting trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses, ferns, ground covers, and native plants. By planting in autumn root systems get a jump start before the cold winter weather makes them dormant. Then in the spring they grow faster than those spring-planted. Additional bonus the fall, winter, and spring rainy season cares for your new plants without the chore of supplemental watering.

October is an excellent time for:
-Cleaning up and putting to rest the edible garden--raised beds, in-ground, and containers
-Planting cover crops
-Planting garlic & shallots
-Pruning lavender
-Planting all kinds of perennial herbs
-Dividing and transplanting existing mature perennial herbs
-Raking leaves and making a leaf mulch pile
-Planting spring flowering bulbs in the ornamental garden
-Plant cool season ornamental containers

CLEAN UP: Now is the time of year I put my edible garden "to rest" for the winter. As I garden intensively in and rotate three raised beds I don't garden year-round, but take the fall and winter off to rest and replenish the garden soil. In late September into early October I harvest the last of my summer crops like tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and beans. I put any plant debris infected with powdery mildew or any other disease or pest problem in the curbside yard debris bin instead of my home compost bin.

Once the raised beds are cleaned up I like to top dress their soil with finished or almost finished compost from my home bin. By emptying my home compost bin in the autumn I can start a fresh pile over the winter that should be ready in time for late spring planting. I cover the raised beds with a frost blanket pinned down. The frost blanket will keep out the marauding squirrels from burying their nuts and the neighborhood cats seeking a new litter box.

Any vegetables, annual herbs and flowers I grow in containers I also empty out at this time of year. I just add the potting soil and plant debris right into my cleaned up raised beds. As I clean up the raised beds I remove tomato cages, bamboo stakes, and trellis to store for the winter.

You can also plant your raised beds or in ground edible garden with cover crops through the month of October. Find more information here.

GARLIC & SHALLOTS: October is the time to plant garlic and shallot bulbs in the Portland garden for a harvest next summer. Pick up some garlic and shallots from your local nursery soon for best selection. By planting garlic and shallots in the fall they start to grow, then sit dormant during the winter, and spring to life again in early spring. The overwintering process assures superior growth, flavor, and much higher yields than spring planting.

Garlic is available in softneck and hardneck varieties. Softneck varieties are less spicy, store well, and have a braidable stem. Hardneck varieties have a spicier flavor, have larger cloves, and develop gorgeous flowering "scapes" in the spring.

Shallots are small clustered onions with deeper flavor than regular onions. They are highly valued by gourmet chefs and can easily be grown in the home garden.

We usually plant one variety each of hardneck and softneck garlic, as well as lots of shallots. This is a fun October planting project when there is not a lot else to be planted!

LAVENDER: Did you know October is the perfect time to prune your lavender? Cut the entire plant back by one third this month. This annual pruning will keep your lavender plant's structure in better shape.

SPRING FLOWERING BULBS: October is the time to plant spring flowering bulbs like daffodil, tulip, anemone, rununculus, crocus, hyacith, grape hyacinth, ornamental allium, miniature iris, snowdrops, and checkered lily.

Did you know you can also fall plant perennial lilies like tiger, asiatic, and oriental?

I like to tuck spring-flowering bulbs into the containers on my deck that currently are loaded with fall season annual plants.

Shop your local nursery now for best selection and get planting while we still have the beautiful sunshine. Remember not to plant in the wet soil on rainy days as this causes soil compaction.

FALL CONTAINERS: I am not ashamed to admit I am obsessed with fall color. Fall color is a category of plants in nurseries and garden centers that begins appearing in September. Fall color is typically cool season annual plants meant to replace fading summer annuals as temperatures cool. I have been shopping at the nursery 5 times in the past few weeks!

Traditional fall color plants include: mums, asters, pansies, violas, ornamental peppers, ornamental cabbage & kale, and dusty miller. I love them all.

When creating fall containers I include lots of these fall color annuals. I don't stop there. To craft spectacular sensory interest containers I consider sun vs shade location and then incorporate dwarf conifers, evergreen shrub starts in 4 inch pots, evergreen ferns, evergreen ground covers, ornamental grasses, herbs, and even a few late blooming perennials like pineapple sage and brown-eyed susan. For unbeatable jewel tone color in your fall container don't forget the heuchera!

We had a very fun time creating these containers together in my fall interest container design make and take workshop in September.

Don't forget to accent your beautiful fall containers with a selection of pumpkins and winter squash. And if you are interested in my professional expertise we can schedule a personalized shopping trip together or I design, deliver, and installment container gardens of all sizes:

October is a beautiful month with both sunny days and the return of rain. Wind whips around and stirs jewel-toned autumn leaves around the garden. Mother nature's show is exquisite in the autumn. Enjoy it now, while you can before the long months of cold, rain, ice, and snow are upon us!

Happy Gardening,

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