October Gardening Checklist

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

October is almost always a great month for gardening in Texas. There is much that can be done. With the arrival of fall, typically cooler weather comes to Texas and rainfall is adequate. Time spent planting this month will pay off in spring. So, between fall festivals, football and pumpkin carving be sure to squeeze in planting time in your garden.

Why plant in the fall rather than late winter or early spring? 

In warm climates like Texas, fall planting gives perennials, shrubs and trees a longer period to grow during mild weather conditions. During the fall, plant roots still grow and they expand in soils that are at 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Fall planting allows the maximum time for plants to become established. They then have a better chance of surviving the heat of summer. If at all possible, plant perennials, tree and shrubs in October. Trees may still be planted in November.


What can I plant in my garden in October?

Before planting amend soil by adding a finished compost to improve biological and physical properties of soil. A finished compost looks similar to coffee grounds. Spread a 3-inch layer and gently mix into the soil.  

Sow seeds of wildflowers – bluebonnets and cool season annuals – larkspur, toadflax, poppies, sweet peas and nasturtium. Soil temperature and moisture affects germination, so a gardener’s tip – germination rate may improve with two plantings done a few weeks apart. See my blog How to Grow Bluebonnets. 

What plants grow best in the fall in Texas?

Cool-season annuals for winter and spring color may be planted this month – calendula, dianthus or pinks, ornamental cabbage and kale, pansies, petunia, snapdragons, stock, sweet alyssum and violas.   

Refresh containers and begin filling them with fall ornamentals as they become available. Look for celosia, copper plant, dianthus, dusty miller, gazania, marigolds and mums. 

Plant fall-blooming perennials – asters, cigar plant, firebush, Gregg’s mistflower, hardy chrysanthemum, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican bush sage, Philippine violet and salvias.

Plant ornamental grasses if available. They are at their prime in fall. Exceptional perennial grasses for Texas landscapes are gulf muhly, Lindheimer’s muhly, some pennisetums and switchgrasses. 

Order winter and spring blooming bulbs that may be planted November to December – daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Buy pre-chilled tulips and hyacinth or refrigerate prior to planting for at least 40 days at 45 degrees Farenheit. 

Plant shrubs and trees. October through November is the ideal time to plant trees. The first Friday of November is Texas Arbor Day. 

When deciding on a tree, give thought to what size tree fits your yard. Find out the tree’s average mature size. The most common mistake in home landscapes is trees that grow too large, are sited poorly or create problems years after planting. First, determine the appropriate size for the space, then select for specific characteristics – flowers, deciduous or evergreen.  

Divide perennials

Divide and transplant spring blooming perennials – canna, daylilies, daisies and iris. Ajuga, aspidistra, ferns and liriope if growing vigorously, can be divided and transplanted. Be sure to replenish mulch as you add new plants.

Recycle fallen leaves! They’re perfect for mulch, composting or shred them and leave them on the lawn as a natural fertilizer.  

Prune and fertilize

Clean out spent summer annuals and remove damage on perennials. Deadhead repeat blooming roses and keep them evenly moist. Prune dead limbs and branches from trees that could be broken off in wind during winter.

Fertilize annuals every 2 to 3 weeks to promote flowering.

Give plants a boost with compost. Just a shovel or two around each perennial and shrub is all that is needed. Finish with a 3 to 4 inch covering of mulch to insulate roots through the winter. 

Tidy up and fertilize patio plants and hanging baskets in preparation to bring indoors for winter.  Take cuttings of tender annuals like coleus to propagate for next spring. 

What to grow in October – Vegetables

Is it too late to plant a garden in October? No, in fact one of the longest and best seasons for vegetable gardening begins in October.  

Plan your fall garden. First clean the planting space, remove weeds and debris. Add compost or shredded leaves and fertilizer to enrich the soil. Have seeds on hand for fall planting. 

What to plant in October 

These are the planting periods for vegetables by seed and *transplant for zone 8b central Texas. Adjust planting times for your zone.

Week 1 – *artichoke, beets, Bok choi, *broccoli, *Brussels sprouts, *cabbage, *cauliflower, *collards, garlic, *kale, *kohlrabi, leeks, mustard, *onion/green bunching, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips

Week 2 – *artichoke, *broccoli, beets, Bok choi, *broccoli, *Brussels sprouts, *cabbage, carrots, *cauliflower, *collards, garlic, *kale, *kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, *onion/green bunching, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips

Week 3 – *artichoke, Bok choi, *broccoli, *Brussels sprouts, *cabbage, carrots, *cauliflower, *collards, garlic, *kale, *kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard, *onion/green bunching, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips

Week 4 – *broccoli, *Brussels sprouts, *cabbage, carrots, *cauliflower, *collards, garlic, *kale, *kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, *onion/green bunching, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, turnips

Herbs to plant this month are borage, chervil, cilantro, chives, dill, fennel, lavender, oregano, parsley, salad burnet and thyme.

When to fertilize lawns in the fall

The hot, dry days of summer take a toll on Texas turfgrass. If you’ve not fertilized, October may be too late depending on soil temperature which needs to be at 55 degrees Farenheit. A soil thermometer is a useful garden tool. Check soil temperature for fertilizing and planting seeds. This is the one I use. Typically for north and central Texas, the last application of lawn fertilizer should be applied in September. But, depending on the weather, fertilization could possibly be accomplished the first week of October.

The benefit of fall lawn fertilization is to prolong turf color and promote early spring recovery. While fertilization is best done based on soil testing results, apply no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Products formulated specifically for fall applications can found in garden centers.

Mow lawns regularly, removing no more than one third of the leaf blade at each mowing Continue to water if needed but irrigate early in the morning to avoid development of fungal diseases. If possible, set automatic irrigation systems to run between 4am to 9am.

Landscape Pest Management in October

Watch for brown patch (aka large patch) in St. Augustine lawns. This fungal disease can develop with cooler nights and high humidity. Look for circular areas of brown foliage. A fall application of fungicide can be a good management strategy. Additionally, if your lawn has one of these fungal diseases, large patch or take all patch, plan to aerate turf in the spring. Aeration improves soil drainage and can help manage both these diseases.  

Fire ants can be managed early in October. When no rain is expected for several days, apply broadcast bait to control this pest. This is an economical and environmentally friendly control method. Here is the product I use: Fire Ant Bait

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