October is the quintessential month for harvesting. For many gardeners, it might be the final vegetable collection of the year. For others who have planted for a fall and winter garden, October merely marks the end of the summer vegetable garden.
No matter what zone you are in, cooler mornings bring some relief from the intense heat of summer. Scents and flavors of apple cider and pumpkin spice help ease the seasonal transition, and there is still plenty to do in our October gardens. Not sure what you should be doing in the garden this month?
Check out our October Gardens Checklist Zones 6-8 for a complete guide on what steps you can take to extend your garden season, harvest more veggies, keep your garden in great shape, and prep it for next year.
Planning for Fall
As you return from the pumpkin patch, cozy up with warm apple cider donuts, decorate with some funky gourds, complete your garden tasks, and put your mind to work. There is plenty of fall garden planning and reflecting on the October Gardens Checklist Zones 6-8 that will keep you on course for continued success in the garden throughout the season.
- October is filled with harvestable veggies. Prepare for the abundance of produce with canning supplies to preserve your harvest, recipes, meal-planning, or sharing with friends and neighbors.
- If you harvested your own seeds from the garden, be sure that they are dried out and labeled and that you have good storage for them. Peruse some ideas for organizing and storing your seeds so you are ready for planting season next year.
- Look up some recipes for the green tomatoes, pumpkins, and apples that you’ve been harvesting.
- Record the seeds you collected in your garden journal to sketch out your garden plans for next year. This helps you know what you have and identify what you may need to acquire.
- If you’ve been planting new perennials, jot them down in your garden journal and add them to your landscape sketches, so you know what you are working with when you start planning next year’s gardens.
- Reflect on the summer growing season and make a note of your highlights and low points.
- What exceeded your expectations in the garden, and what was underwhelming?
- Were there weather obstacles?
- Make a note of any diseased or pest-infested plants and where they were planted so that you don’t repeat the same cycle next year.
- Watch how the sunlight hits your October gardens. As time passes, trees grow more prominent and fuller and can shade areas of the yard that they didn’t before. Did this impact the amount of sunlight that your gardens received? Note if some pruning may be necessary before growing season next year. Note if any trees look diseased and call a tree expert to assess if a tree needs to be removed.
- It’s never too early to note anything that you still need concerning seed starting supplies. Ensure that you have plenty of seed starting mix, grow trays, grow lights, and warming mats. As you assess your materials, organize your seed packets so that you are aware of what you have and what you might like to add to your supply.
- Assess your tools and note any repairs in your garden journal that may be needed in the off-season. Are there tools that you wish that you had? There may be time to find some clearance items at your garden center, or you can write them down on your garden journal shopping list.
- Clear out some space in a shed or garage to store your garden tools next month.
- Your seed starting materials are also essential garden tools of the trade. It’s vital to make sure you have everything you need to give seeds their best start.
- If you have a root cellar or plan to save your root vegetables, winter squash, and pumpkins, ensure that the area is organized and prepped for food storage.
- If you picked up any end-of-season good buys from the clearance rack, it’s time to organize and store them properly.
- Jot down anything in the garden that needs bolstering, rebuilding, construction, or repair. Did something catch your eye on a website, garden magazine, or a neighbor’s yard? If you’d like to add something to the garden like a pumpkin vine arch, some teepees, or a pergola, you can jot those ideas down too. Add a list of what supplies you might need to complete these projects.
October Gardens Prep & Maintenance
Keep gardens in tip-top shape by keeping up with some essential garden tasks. While many jobs on the October Garden Checklist Zones 6-8 list may seem redundant from month to month, they are paramount to the garden’s success. Keeping up with tasks like mulching, watering, weeding, and pruning will keep your garden looking great and keep your plants happy and productive.
Autumn Cleanup & Prep
Keep October gardens tidy to keep a handle on pests and diseases. Try not to procrastinate on this one. Keeping your gardens free of debris and diseased plants will keep your gardens healthier for years to come.
- Have perennial plants far outgrown their space in the garden? Take time to divide them and settle them into their new locations before a hard freeze sets in.
- Compost fallen leaves and healthy garden debris.
- Pull up and discard any diseased or mottled plant foliage entirely away from your gardens or compost pile.
- Add grass clippings and fallen leaves to your compost heap and turn the pile one last time for the year.
- Clear garden beds of plant debris and clean up dropped fruit from around fruit trees.
- Remove spent vines from climbing structures and fences.
- Clean up the lawn of any stray branches or sticks. They will make great kindling for a brisk evening’s fire pit.
- As neighbors are out raking their leaves, ask if you can take them off of your hands. Leaves are great for adding brown matter to compost piles, and they also make a fine organic mulch for garden beds.
- While it’s best to stop pruning trees and shrubs at this point in the year, you can still clean up dead limbs or hanging, broken branches.
- Now that berry bushes have finished producing, cut back the canes halfway. Prune away any dead and nonproductive canes. Mulch the berry patch well to insulate the plants for the upcoming winter.
- Continue to add kitchen scraps and brown matter to your compost pile.
- Cut back any newly formed roses, remove and discard any part of the plant which looks diseased or plagued by pests.
- Prune dead or diseased vines from grapevines.
- Add a layer of compost to gardens to reward the soil and boost its nutrient levels for all of its hard work. You can also plant a cover crop of rye this month.
- You can leave perennials alone and allow them to die back completely. This is best for the plant, and leaving unharvested seedpods intact also feeds the migrating birds and other wildlife who are stocking up for winter. Additionally, leave a few sunflower heads intact.
- Tidy up your fall planters by deadheading spent flowers.
- Fertilize your fall planters to keep them growing strong.
- Thin out any root vegetable seedlings that were sown in the garden last month.
- Bring any tropical plants or houseplants indoors in preparation for the winter.
Weeding the Garden in October
Organically weeding your garden continues to be a priority this month. Pull weeds early or after rainfall and dispose of them so they don’t have an opportunity to go to seed and proliferate. Eliminating weeds regularly works well over time to lessen the number of weeds that compete with your plants in subsequent years.
Mulching for Fall
- Mimic nature by covering bare spots in your October gardens with mulch. This practice deters weeds from developing there, enriches the soil as the mulch breaks down, and provides a habitat for beneficial insects.
- Add a generous layer of mulch or a cover crop to vacant garden beds.
- Mulch newer perennial plantings and bulbs to insulate root systems during the upcoming winter months.
- Mulch rose bushes, citrus groves, and grapevines for extra winter protection.
Watering in the Fall
- Water in recently planted perennials deeply. Not only do the roots need the water to establish themselves before a harsh winter, but water also acts as an insulator.
- Water your fall container flowers and plants.
Indoor Fall Planting
Zones 7 and 8 can start seeds for cool-season favorites for later transplanting in cold frames or greenhouses for a winter harvest.
Sow some herb seeds in containers indoors and place them in a sunny window so you can enjoy a harvest of fresh essences all winter long.
- Bok Choy
Continue to plant new perennials, trees, and shrubs. Plant early in the day and water in well, as the sun can still be intense during the afternoons.
Plant your fall bulbs if you have not done so already. They will provide a great deal of joy and excitement when they emerge from the earth after a long, cold winter. You can also plant native plants this month. Consider sowing some wildflower seeds and see what comes up.
October Garden Harvesting
There is a lot of room on the October Gardens Checklist Zones 6-8 for harvesting. Gardeners in Zones 6-8 can harvest and enjoy:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
Begin digging up sweet potatoes, other root vegetables and harvesting pumpkins, gourds, and squash.
If you have any herbs still producing in the garden, harvest the whole plant and hang them upside down in a cool, dry place to dry them or freeze them.
You can start clearing out your summer garden if you haven’t done so already. This will make space for your fall and winter gardens. Note that if you still have green or partially ripe tomatoes clinging to the vine, you can remove them all right now and use them in green tomato recipes.