GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Planting in October


Usually, my first blog of the month is about important gardening chores that need to be done in the month. However, I feel the need to address the seriousness of our drought conditions and the importance of watering. The blog on ‘Gardening Chores for October’ will be next week.

Gardening always has some challenges. This year, our number one challenge is with how dry we are here in early October. We have not had a good, old fashion soaking rain since mid-July. August was relatively dry with just over a couple inches of rain. September rainfall was registered as less than a half-inch, making this one of the driest Septembers on record. And, couple this with the fact that we had one of the warmest Septembers on record. This is not a good combination for planting in October.

But, like with all challenges and gardening adversities, we just need to be smart gardeners so that we can take advantage of the FALL IS FOR PLANTING season.

Every day I speak to customers who are bringing in leaf samples and pictures of their plants because they are concerned about how their shrubs and trees look and want to know what they can do to stop their decline and if they can be saved.

So… what do we need to do in order to continue planting in October?

WATER        WATER        WATER    

I can’t stress enough the need to water AND water correctly and thoroughly and, at the same time, be WATER WISE!


If you have been waiting for some rain before you seed or overseed your lawn, I would recommend not waiting much longer. You are up against heavy leaf fall if you wait too much longer. Because of the dryness, trees are dropping leaves early. Leaves on the lawn will block the sunlight needed for grass seed growth. Go ahead and do your lawn renovation NOW! I recommend irrigating or watering the lawn before adding any seed. You need to get some moisture into the surface soil. Our soil temperature is warm and you will have germination within 10 to 14 days of applying new grass seed. You just need to stay on top of watering.


Fall planting is the best because of many reasons. One main reason is that plants that are planted now have nearly 9 months to become more established before the heat and the dryness of next summer. Usually in October, especially the last couple of years, we have plenty of moisture in our soil for the planting season. Obviously, not this year. Here is what I suggest to counteract this dryness:

  1. Water the area where you plan to plant so that the soil has moisture. This will make digging easier.
  2. Soak the plants thoroughly while they are still in their container or burlap
  3. Water thoroughly as you plant.
  4. Water again once finished planting.
  5. Newly planted plants will need to be thoroughly and deeply water 2 or 3 times a week depending on any rain from Mother Nature.
  6. In most cases, an irrigation system does not do the deep and thorough watering that a plant requires – surface watering, yes /  deep soaking, no.


Many established shrubs and trees are showing signs of stress due to this dry period we are in.

You need to keep everything watered until we begin to get some soaking rainfall. Keep in mind that we never want any of our plants to be dry going into a cold, winter period.

Be smart waterers. Be water-wise. Try to water early in the morning or later in the evening to reduce evaporation. We can get through this challenging period for gardening.


To read more posts from Doug, visit our blog

6 thoughts on “GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Planting in October”

  1. Thank you for this reminder, Doug
    Richmond’s old street trees (in addition to those newly planted) are very very thirsty; I’ve been watering the boxes into which they were planted many years ago. I would be great if each household took responsibility for the street trees at their address?
    Your reminder will reach a lot of folks.
    The Trees

    • Linda,
      Thank you for reading our blogs. What a difference a year makes. Last year we had so much rain in September. Let’s keep the hoses going until Mother Nature gives us some relief. Doug

    • Carolyn,
      FALL IS FOR PLANTING. And, fall is a great time to consider planting some shade trees. Any of the varieties of Red Maple trees are a good choice to consider. Same goes for Sugar Maple trees. Oaks are good shade trees but they are slow growing. Let me know if you have any further questions. Doug

  2. Hi Doug,
    I have a question about transplanting an oak seedling that has sprung up in my garden bed. It is about 3 feet high with large leaves. Seems to be healthy. Would you suggest leaving it where it is or moving it to a permanent location yet this fall?

    • Mary,
      I would suggest moving it to the permanent location. But, not yet. We are still too warm and dry. I would do it closer to Thanksgiving – once the oak tree has gone dormant. It shouldn’t be too difficult since it is only 3′ tall. It won’t have an extensive root system. So, you should be able to dig up the entire root structure. Be sure to keep the rootball in tact (don’t let it fall apart) as you move it to the new location. Doug

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