While gardeners in Zones 9-10 are still experiencing warm temperatures during the day, overnights and mornings have a cooler feel that signals fall is present.
Gather up your pumpkin spice lattes and apple cider confections and decorate with your freshly harvested pumpkins and gourds this month! Gardening in October can be a blast, filled with fun harvests and even some winter planting.
There are lots of things to do in the garden throughout the fall months. Check out our October Garden Checklist for great tips for what you should be doing and planning for when it comes to your fall garden.
October Garden Planning
Put your mind to work during your cooler mornings or evenings. There is plenty of planning and reflecting to do when you’re gardening in October that will keep you on course for continued success in the garden throughout the fall months and through the winter season.
- October is loaded with harvestable veggies in Zones 9-10. Prepare for the abundance of produce by having canning supplies organized, recipes gathered, meal-planning in progress, or plan to share your yield 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. Pursue some ideas for organizing and storing your seeds so you are ready for planting season next year.
- Record the seeds you collected in your garden journal in order to sketch out your garden plans for next year. This helps you know what you have and identify what you may need to acquire.
- Research some recipes for the green tomatoes, pumpkins, and zucchini that you’ve been harvesting.
- 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?
- What was underwhelming?
- Were there weather obstacles?
- When you’re gardening in October, be sure to 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 yard and garden at this time of year. 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 to know 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.
- Ensure that the area is organized and prepped for food storage if you have a root cellar or plan to save your root vegetables, winter squash, and pumpkins.
- If you picked up any sellar end-of-season buys from the clearance rack, it’s time to organize and store them properly.
- As you continue gardening in October, 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 Garden Prep & Maintenance
Keep gardens in stellar shape by keeping up with some essential garden tasks. While many jobs on the October Garden Checklist Zones 9-10 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.
Garden Cleanup and Prep
- Keep gardens tidy in order 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.
- Gather any fallen leaves and healthy garden debris and add them to your compost pile.
- Pull up and discard any diseased or mottled plant foliage entirely and away from your gardens or compost pile.
- Add grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and fallen leaves to your compost heap and turn the pile one last time for the year.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 amend 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.
Weeding the Fall Garden
Organic weed control continues to be a priority this month. Pull weeds early before they go to seed 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 to lessen the number of weeds that compete with your plants in subsequent years.
Fall Garden Mulching
- Mimic the natural forest floor by covering bare spots in your garden beds 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 plant 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.
Autumn Watering Tips
- 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.
- Continue to water your vegetable and flower gardens, preferably from below, using a garden drip irrigation water system to keep foliage dry.
- Water your fall container plants regularly.
Sow cool-season vegetables for a late fall planting and winter harvest. Consider planting:
- Swiss Chard
Outdoor Planting in the October Garden
It’s time to plant your final round of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. You can also plant garlic and shallots at this time.
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 spring 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.
Fall Garden Harvesting
There is a lot of room on the October Garden Checklist Zones 9-10 for harvesting. Gardeners in Zones 9-10 can harvest and enjoy:
- Bok Choy
- Sweet Potatoes
- Root Vegetables
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 as you are clearing garden plots, you can remove them all right now and use them in green tomato recipes.