"My October To Do List," by the Whistling Gardener

Have a seat with some sedums.  Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.
Have a seat with some sedums. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. 

It is official. As of the 23rd of September, the days are now shorter than the nights and will continue to be so for the next six months.

While that might sound depressing to us, the fact is that Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. In fact, there are actually plants that seem to wake up in the winter; bloom and set fruit while the rest of us are hunkered down in our homes. Go figure!

If anyone can remember the fall season from last year, it was dry and warm, with the exception of that nasty week in early November. The same is forecasted for this fall, which means that we should be able to get everything done before winter sets in for good and have a jump on spring 2016.

Here are the high points to consider:

WATERING: Despite the scattered rains we have received, the ground is still very dry. Get out the hose and soak the beds and lawn at least one time this month. Just trust me on this one, it’s worth the effort and expense.

LAWNS: This is the last month to overhaul or plant a new lawn. If you missed our lawn care class then just come in and we will get you going in the right direction. Applying an organic fertilizer like EB Stone Nature’s Green 10-1-4 now will help keep your lawn green all winter and into early spring. Red thread can sometimes be a problem in the fall and Bonide Infuse will help control it in one easy application.

ROSES: Stop fertilizing and leave a few finished blooms on to form hips. Don’t do any hard pruning now, just a little snipping to tidy them up. Once the nights get into the 30’s then we can do some serious mulching and pruning.

PERENNIALS: There are still some late bloomers that look great: asters, mums, Japanese anemones, cone flowers, Russian sage, sedum and toad lilies, to name just a few. Ornamental grasses are just spectacular now. Enjoy the last blooms of the season and don’t rush to tidy things up. There are lots of seeds in those old flower heads that the birds will enjoy. Wait until the first frost to really start cleaning up the perennial beds. In fact, you can even wait until mid to late February to do it.

CONTAINERS: It’s time to clean out your containers of summer color and replant with hardy perennials, ground covers and even shrubs for the winter. For color, of course, nothing beats pansies and violas. Try some E.B. Stone Pansy and Fall Flowers fertilizer which contains seabird guano, a more readily soluble form of organic nitrogen.

BULBS: This is the month to get serious about planting bulbs. With some careful planning, you can have blooming bulbs from January until June, sometimes all in the same pot. Don’t forget to add some E.B. Stone Bone Meal containing 15% phosphorus, an ingredient that bulbs love.

VEGETABLES: Plant fall crops now and control winter weeds by either laying-on a one-inch layer of compost or planting a cover crop. Building a cloche (a temporary greenhouse-type structure) will also help to produce a successful winter crop. Root and leaf crops can both be planted this month. Garlic is a must to plant in the fall.

FALL CLASSES: We have a great lineup of classes for this month including such topics as terrariums, gardening with bulbs, and putting the garden to bed. Go to our website at for more details and be sure and register so you have a seat!

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at

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