Can it be October Already?

Yes, the fall is here, so promise me that you will purchase at least a few spring bulbs to add to your garden.

If you've had issues with bulbs or foliage getting eaten, plant narcissus and daffodils. They are not eaten by rodents, rabbits, or deer and spread nicely in the garden. Add a few more next year and soon you will have a gorgeous display.

I add more tulip, daffodil, narcissus, chionodoxis, scilla, frittalaria and other bulbs each year. April through early June is a time of great joy in our neighborhood when a thousand tulips bloom along with the other spring bulbs in front of our home. Neighbors and perfect strangers come and take pictures. I truly delight in speaking with them about the flowers.

Ideally, your bulbs should all be planted by the end of October so they form strong roots. They can be planted during a January thaw, but the results are less than satisfactory.

Make this the year you plant garlic. Purchase the bulbs at your local nursery or shop online. There is more to garlic then just the silverskin variety sold in supermarkets, which seldom can be successfully planted in our gardens in Western New York.

You will have a choice of garlic either in the hardneck or softneck group. Hardnecks have a stalk that extends all the way down into the bulb; softnecks are the garlics that can be braided. Try some of each. Plant the individual cloves pointed end-up, two inches deep in loose fertile soil at least six inches apart. You will soon become a garlic gourmet.

Did you grow gladiolas, cannas, or gladioli, dahlias or some tropical rhizomes such as colocasia (elephant ear) this summer? Dig them up before the ground freezes - do not wash them off as the soil on their surface protects them. Store in peat moss in a cool dry place.

Pick or harvest apples. This year I am experimenting with drying different varieties. Dried apples make delicious pies and pastries. While you are outside enjoying the beautiful October days, remove leaves from your lawns. Run your lawnmower over them several times to break them into small pieces. These can be raked into the lawn or used as mulch in your perennial gardens.

A common question asked often of me is whether or not to cut down the entire garden in the fall. I do clean up garden debris, dead plants, anything diseased, and of course weeds, but I let most of the gardens to just "do their thing." I want to enjoy everything for as long as possible. I also want to encourage beneficial insects that lay eggs over the winter in our gardens. I know things get a bit messy by early spring, but until then there are still plants to look at and enjoy often into December.

In addition, there are some shrubs that will not flower next year if their flower buds are cut off now, such as hydrangea. These often grow on the previous year's growth. When in doubt, simply wait.

Forever Young Magazine - October 2008