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October gardening tips from the University of Tennessee Gardens

October 24, 2018

By Rick Thomason
UT Ext. Director

The University of Tennessee Gardens offer a few gardening tips for the month of October. Below are their recommendations:

· Collect the seeds of any annuals you would like to grow again next year. Allow them to dry completely before storing. A paper bag is great for containing the seed and allowing it to dry.

· You still have time to order bulbs, but be swift about it, and get them in the ground by early December.
· Before the first frost, dig up caladiums and shake off soil. Allow them to dry completely and store in a warm, dry place for the winter.

· October is a good time to plant trees and shrubs, since dormant plants will be under less stress. Newly installed deciduous plants require almost no watering during the winter months, but don’t forget that a thorough initial watering is paramount. Monitor evergreens, such as junipers, hollies and aborvitae, for watering needs if rain is sparse. Even in winter a plant with leaves on it will transpire. Winter wind desiccation can hurt an evergreen tree that lacks sufficient moisture.

· Wash your pumpkins, gourds and winter squash in a mild bleach solution before displaying or storing to help prevent rot.

· Don’t forget to bring in your tropical plants and houseplants before frost. Many plants don’t fare well when temperatures drop into the 40s.

· After frost, you can cut back your deciduous herbaceous perennials to lessen the chance of disease or insects overwintering in your beds. Hardy lantanas and salvias are perennials that are borderline hardy and may benefit from retaining their stems through the winter. Any tender plants, such as cannas and elephant ears, appreciate a layer of mulch for extra winter protection.

·Other perennials can be mulched with a thin layer of organic material, but keep the mulch away from the crown or it could hold too much moisture and rot the plant

·Pick off any bagworms from your plants to help eliminate the eggs that will hatch next year. Dispose of them in the garbage, not the compost, or they may hatch and survive.

· To make leaf removal less of a chore, rake them before they accumulate deeply. If you have a fescue lawn, it is even more important to keep the leaves off of it. Compost or use them as mulch in your beds. You can also till them into your soil and by spring they will be composted. Leaves on the lawn can be chopped with the lawn mower and left in place if not too deep.

· Remember that seasonal mums are more valuable as compost than as “keep-around plants,” after they’ve faded and split. Don’t be tempted to plant them! Even if they establish, they rarely live up to your expectations the following year.

· October is the preferred time to plant ornamental kale, Swiss chard, and pansies. These plants are lovely additions to the fall and winter landscape. Plus, they are edible. Look for the winterbor and Russian kales as they are more reliable in cold weather than the kales known commonly as “flowering cabbage.”

·Warm-season ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus and fountain grass (Pennisetum) resent being dug, divided and replanted in the fall. It is best to wait until early spring. As a general rule, avoid planting even container-grown warm season grasses in the fall. There isn’t sufficient time for the roots to establish, and the plants may be lost over the winter.