Gardening: A good month to start planning for vegetable, flower gardens

Eileen Ward

Landscapers are still working to get yards cleaned up and back to some semblance of normalcy. Not all felled trees have been removed and of course the much-hated “piles” are still everywhere.

Once again I implore all of you to resist the urge to complain to authorities about the piles on your street. There is nothing they can do to speed the process and remember, if this was not an option your lawn companies would still be trying to remove debris from at least half of their yards. We would have to drag it all to the truck, load it in, cut it up to fit and then drive the load to the dump. Some yards easily had five to 10 trips to the dump in the yard. If you were one of the later yards to be serviced you would have had a lot more dead grass than just a spot on your swale. Try to see the big picture and think of everyone else.

A butterfly lights in a garden.

On the good side, fall is here and the month of October will bring cooler and dryer weather to our gardens. The month begins with high temperatures in the 90s but ends with highs in the mid-80s. Lows will be in the mid-60s and could go as low as the 50s. Fall also signals the end of the rainy season. Early October can still see heavy rains like we are experiencing now, but we can become very dry by month’s end.

Remember to get your fertilizing done this month so your lawn and plants will be healthy going into winter and the dry months. Once the cooler temperatures arrive the slow release fertilizers may not react due to cooler soil temperatures and dormant plants. The last fertilization of citrus should be applied this month to help the fruit mature and ripen. But do keep in mind not to pile the fertilizer on to roots that were just replanted since there will be tender new roots growing and could be burned and killed by large amounts of fertilizer.

This is a good month to apply mulch. The heavy downpours of summer, which can wash mulch away, are just about over and mulch will dress the garden beds for the return of the winter season. It will also help to conserve water and retard weed growth. Weeds have taken over these last two weeks. I’m sure seeds have been blown in from far and wide. We are spraying to kill them and mulch would certainly help this process.

This is the last month to do any severe pruning. After mid-month the cold weather will begin to arrive and our more tropical plants will need their foliage to protect them. Plants cut too severely will have tender new growth which could be damaged by temperatures in the 50's. Like I said in my earlier column after the hurricane it will be impossible not to cut some shrubs back farther than is desirable this time of year since they have been broken or blown over. Cross your fingers and hope for the best.

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This is a good month to start planning for vegetable and flower gardens. Prepare your beds by tilling the soil and adding amendments like peat and manure. Then let the beds rest until the cooler weather arrives to begin planting. This is also a good month to plant bulbs. And if there are some plants from the north you would love to plant in your garden you can do so after you feel the cooler winds. They will last until our hot weather returns in late spring. We could all use a little bright spot of color in the landscape so bring on the flowers!

Insect pests like scale, chinch bugs, grubs, white fly and mites, once it becomes dry, will still be active. Watch for them and treat if necessary. You will find fewer pest problems with the onset of cooler weather.

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After the temperatures are in the low 80s, it will be safe to treat your lawn for weeds. Early October can still be too hot to apply Atrizine or other herbicides so be sure to wait for the cooler weather to avoid damage.

With the cooler weather also comes less growth and that means less hard labor to keep the yard in order. Come on winter! I know I am ready for a break.

Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at or 239-394-1413.