TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – October Gardening Tasks


What a difference a year makes –  besides being a year older.  Last year we were experiencing a dry period.  From mid-August through the entire month of September we only received 1-½ inches of rain.  Obviously, this is not the case this year.  Our average rainfall total for a September is 4.1 inches of rain.  Some of us exceeded this monthly average in just a few days because of Hurricane Florence, not to mention all the rain we had before and after Hurricane Florence.  Matter of fact, I cross the James River coming to work every day and it has been muddy and high for most of September.

October is here and the first week we are having some unseasonably warm weather.  Next week we are to cool down and feel like fall.

Don’t put your hose away yet.  There are a number of important tasks to be done in the garden before we finally close the door on October.


Tree leaves are beginning to fall and you may have already started to rake or leaf blow.  Don’t forget to clean fallen leaves in your garden beds.  We have had a very wet summer and we are dealing with a lot of fungus issues on the leaves of our plants.  It is a good practice to clean up leaves out of the landscape.  If you allow infected leaves to remain on the ground over the winter, there is a good chance your plants will be re-infected the following season.  This is especially true for roses.  Good fall clean-up can greatly reduce the prevalence of black spot on roses the following season.


While you’re cleaning up your garden beds you might be tempted to prune your trees and evergreen shrubs.  I strongly advise against this.    It’s just too early.  We haven’t even had a frost.  Pruning now could encourage new growth.  You don’t want this to happen this time of year.  This new growth will not have ample time to “harden off” before we do have our first killing frost.


Now is a good time to give your lawn a second application of fall fertilizer.  Following the S.O.D. fertilizing schedule you can substantially improve your lawn’s winter hardiness.


Just because it is October and tree leaves are just beginning to fall does not mean the end of the planting season.  Now is a great time to be planting trees and shrubs.  We have warm soil that helps encourage root growth.  We certainly have ample moisture in our soil.  And, we have fewer pests to deal with this time of year.  Plants that are planted now have 8 months to become more rooted and established before the stress of next summers’ heat and possible dryness.

8 key steps to planting properly:

  1. Water the new plants well before planting.
  2. If in a container, be sure to loosen the root system before placing in the hole.  If balled & burlapped, then untie the string that may be tied around the trunk of the plant.  Leave the burlap on the rootball.  Burlap will rot and decay in time.
  3. Dig a hole that is about twice as wide than the root system.  Amend the soil with compost.  Let the new root growth grow outward into this amended soil.
  4. Add some ESPOMA BIO-TONE in the hole.  Bio-Tone is a root stimulator.
  5. Have the plant slightly mounded out of the hole.
  6. Water the shrub or tree as you plant.  The weight of the water will help eliminate any air pockets in the soil and help compress the soil firmly around the root system.
  7. Newly planted plants will need to be watered 2 or 3 times a week.  Be sure the watering is deep and thorough around the root structure.
  8. Add a fresh layer of mulch.  Mulch is great for water retention, but in the winter it also doubles as an insulator.

A few more quick October gardening tasks:

  1. Now is a good time to replace your summer annuals with the winter hardy pansies.
  2. Now is bulb planting time – daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, and other minor bulbs can be planted now.  Hold off on planting tulip bulbs until mid-November when our soil temperature has cooled.
  3. Try to keep water gardens free from falling leaves.
  4. Pine trees are beginning to shed needles.  Pine needles make great mulch.  And, they are free from Mother Nature.
  5. October is when we take down our hummingbird feeder and hang our regular bird feeder.
  6. It is time to prep houseplants for coming inside.  Read my blog from last week for details.

Enjoy October – it’s a great month for be a gardener and a great month to be living in Virginia!!

9 thoughts on “TALKING GARDENING with DOUG – October Gardening Tasks”

  1. I have a Madagascar Palm we purchased from GBGH several years ago. The palm was on my deck for a fair amount of our rainy period. It is losing leaves and the leaves appear to have a light “mildew” look.what do you advise?

    • Carol,
      Thank you for taking time to send me this message. I am pretty sure that you are seeing the affects of all the rain that we have received over the course of the past few months. Your Madagascar Palm did not have time to dry out in between all the rain. The white powder on the leaves is probable powdery mildew – a fungus. Before bringing the plant inside I would recommend that you treat the plant with a fungicide in order to kill this fungus. Let me know if you have any further questions. Doug

    • Cheryl,
      Thank you for reading my blog and taking time to send me your question. SOD stands for the months of September, October, and December. It has been established that these are the three months that we need to fertilize our cool season, fescue lawns. Let me know if you have any further questions. Doug

  2. My Skip Laurel has some branches with yellow and brown leaves. It seems to have happened rapidly. Within in the last two weeks. Want to make sure I don’t loose them. They are on a slight hill.

    • Thank you for this message. Before I try to answer your question, I have one question back to you. How old are these Schip laurels or how long ago have they been planted. let me hear back from you so that I can try to help you out. Thanks, Doug

  3. I have a Meyer Lemon tree that has been outdoors all summer. When it comes into the house, should it be treated in any way for bugs or disease?

    Thank you for this opportunity to ask gardening questions.

    • Sue,
      Thank you for this message. And, I love helping customers with their plant and garden questions. There are things you want to do in preparation of your Meyer Lemon tree coming inside for the winter. I did a blog three weeks ago on houseplants and what steps to take to clean them before coming inside. Go to that blog and please read it. If you can’t locate this blog let me know and I will get back to you with some steps to take on your lemon tree. I hope you fared well with TS Michael last night. Regards, Doug

  4. I am guessing they are at least 7-10 years old. They were planted by the previous owners. They are probably 15 feet or more, high.

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