Eight great gardening hints for October

You can find good-quality perennials at bargain prices in the fall.
You can find good-quality perennials at bargain prices in the fall. Mary Fran McQuade

Well, haven’t we been the lucky ones this year. The leaves are still green, the flowers are still blooming and the Blue Jays made the division play-offs. (At least they were still in the game when I wrote this.)

Thanksgiving is done, and we Beachers still have good enough weather to get out and garden. The cold can whisk in any day now, so be selective about the garden jobs you decide to do.

In honour of October, which has the number eight (“octo”) in its name, here are eight things to tackle in your garden this month. (If you want to know more about why the 10th month is named “eight,” watch for my comment at the bottom of this article.)

1. Take pictures of what you did and didn’t like this year in your garden. Maybe that groundcover rose didn’t get enough sun and should be moved. Maybe the dratted hydrangea grew too big and bullied its hosta neighbours. Or maybe the dull back fence needs a vine…or even some kind of outdoor art. Take pix and make notes now, because you won’t remember these things in all the excitement next spring.

2. While you’re out there making notes for next year, take care of things that need immediate attention. I recently restrained my forsythia from leaning over and whacking people in the face. A tall rose cane waving in the sky got gently tied in horizontally on the nearby fence. I even bit the bullet and yanked out some aggressive black-eyed Susans. I’m sure I’ll have plenty when they re-seed next year.

3. Get out to the garden centres and splurge on perennials, grasses, shrubs or trees. They’re all on sale at deep discount prices – 40 to 50 per cent off – so you can afford to take some risks with plants you’re not sure about. For even more fun, buy hardy plants with flowers or interesting foliage and make your own autumn/early winter containers. You don’t have to be stuck with boring old chrysanthemums. Pack in silvery-grey artemisias, powder-blue asters and orange/yellow heucheras instead.

4. Weed. What more can I say? The cooler weather makes it easier to root out pesky stuff like lilies of the valley. In spring, they’re kind of sweet and cute, but now they’re just ratty. All kinds of undesirables are easier to yank up when the ground is damp from autumn showers. Plus, you’ll be able to see just how far the little monsters have spread.

5. If your garden plants have produced seeds, gather some and save for next year. Good candidates are black-eyed Susans, milkweed and hollyhocks; herbs like basil and sage; and veggies like squash and dried peppers. If you end up with a lot of seeds, search the web in early spring for upcoming seed swaps.

6. Ready to take the leap into native plants? This is the best time to plant their seeds. Get seeds from friends, order from specialized suppliers or gather them from the wild (with permission, and seeds only, never plants). Plant lightly covered with earth, mark the spot and wait for them to come up in the spring.

7. Harvest herbs now. Pick and dry favourites like basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano and winter savory. I cut the stalks into short lengths, swish them in clean water, pat them so they’re not soaking wet and hang until they’re crisp. Then pick off the leaves, bottle them and crush them right before you add them to your cooking. (Use less dried herb than fresh.) Home-dried herbs, prettily packaged, also make lovely gifts for non-gardeners.

8. Rake the dang leaves. If you can, compost them or shred and spread as mulch. If you have too many to handle, put them out on yard waste days – pick-ups in our area continue until December 13. Gardening friends who don’t have trees may even be happy to come around and take away your filled leaf bags (though they never seem eager to help with the raking first).

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1 comments

Why does October have the number 8 (“octo”) as part of its name? Blame it on the ancient Romans. Back when Rome was founded, around 450 BC, they established a year that had 10 months, beginning in March and ending in December. That made October the eighth month of the year.

Some time later, the Romans tweaked the calendar, making each month a little shorter and using the extra days to add January and February to the year. However, when Caesar Augustus became emperor, his month, August, had fewer days than the others, so he cut February short and gave those days to August, leaving February the shortest month of the year even to this day.

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