Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

October, 2008

Garden Checklist for October, 2008

by Dr. William C. Welch, Professor & Landscape Horticulturist,
Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Maximilian sunflower
Maximilian sunflower, an excellent perennial for the fall garden
  • Careful covering of tender plants on nights when light frost threatens, early in the season, is a way to stretch out the season for a few more days or weeks. Good candidates for protection include late season crinum blooms, brugmansia and datura shrubs, Lantana trifolia with its lavender, verbena-like flowers in clusters, "Halloween-blooming" Gladiolus dalenii and many others. Especially tender herbs such as basil should be cut for use as pesto sauce ingredients or pizza toppings as soon as possible at this time.

  • Fall is often one of the best times to enjoy rose blooms in Texas. Lightly prune hybrid teas, floribundas and modern garden roses and fertilize them in early fall for an abundant display until hard frost.

  • October is a good time to reduce the insect and disease potential in next year's garden. Clean up the garden, removing all annuals that have completed their life cycle. Remove the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have finished flowering or as soon as frost has killed the leaves.

  • October through November is also an excellent time to purchase bulbs while you still have a good selection in the garden center.

  • Chill tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator until mid or late December before planting. The lower part of the refrigerator is best. Do not leave bulbs in airtight plastic bags during refrigerated storage.

  • Plant bulbs in well prepared beds so the base of the bulb is at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb. In sandy soil, set slightly deeper and in clay soils less deeply.

  • Holly plants with a heavy set of fruit often suffer a fertilizer deficiency. An application of complete fertilizer late this month can be helpful and provide a head start next spring.

  • Start collecting leaves for the compost pile. Be sure to have extra soil available so that each 6 inch layer of leaves may be covered with several inches of soil. Always wet the layer of leaves thoroughly before adding the soil. Add about one pound of a complete lawn or garden fertilizer to each layer of leaves to provide the necessary nitrogen for decomposition.

  • In addition to bulbs, check your nursery or garden center for started plants of snapdragons, pinks, sweet williams, poppies, and calendulas. Planted now in south and east Texas, they will usually provide a riot of spring color; wait until late winter or early spring to plant in north Texas.

  • Keep Christmas cactus in a sunny spot where night temperatures can be kept below 65 degrees F. Buds will drop if you allow night temperatures to go above 70 degrees F or if you allow the plant to become excessively dry. They should also be kept in total darkness from 5:00 pm until 8:00 am for about 30 days in October to initiate flower buds.

  • If you have saved seeds of your favorite plants, allow them to become air dry, then place them in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Be sure to label each packet carefully. Remember, seed from hybrid plants will seldom resemble the parent plant.Prepare beds for planting pansies when they become available at the garden centers. They need a well-drained soil and exposure to at least a half-day of sun. It is best to use started plants, as seeds are difficult to handle.

  • If you are planning to save caladium tubers for anothe year, dig them in late October, and allow to dry in a well ventilated but shady area. After 7 to 10 days remove leaves and dirt, then pack in dry peat moss, vermiculite or similar material for storage. Pack tubers so they do not touch each other. Dust with all-purpose fungicide as you pack. Place container in an area where temperature won't drop below 50 degrees F.

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