October can be a fickle month here in the Mid-Atlantic states. If we’re lucky, we may get just a light frost or two early on, followed by a lovely spell of mild weather. We may even sail through the first few weeks with no frost at all. Or we can get zapped by a freeze early on, calling a sudden halt to the growing season. Whatever happens temperature-wise, there are still plenty of reasons to be out in the garden.
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast, and be prepared to protect cold-tender plants if a frost or freeze threatens them. Bring containers into a sheltered spot, if possible. Drape old sheets or gently place cardboard boxes over tender plants that must stay in place.
After the first frost, dig up cannas (Canna spp. and cvs., Zones 7–10), dahlias (Dahlia spp. and cvs., Zones 7–10), and other tender bulbs, and bring them into your basement or another cool but frost-free place for winter storage.
Get any remaining containerized perennials and woody plants in the ground now.
Treat yourself to at least a few new bulbs, and get them planted now for flowers next spring or summer. Bulb catalog orders you placed earlier usually arrive this month, and local sources usually still have a good supply.
Keep picking kale, greens, and other cool-season crops through the month. The harvest season for tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-season crops is pretty much over, but you can now plant garlic for next year’s crop of greens or cloves.
Nancy J. Ondra is the author of over fifteen books, including Grasses, The Perennial Care Manual, and The Perennial Matchmaker.
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