Plant for the cool season. October is the April of autumn. So do some stretches or take a yoga class before gearing up and grabbing your spade—it’s prime planting time. You can plant anything that survives your zone now! Think cool-season annuals like pansies (Viola × wittrockiana cvs., Zones 6–10), snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus cvs., Zones 7–10) and kales, spring bulbs, shrubs, trees, and most perennials. Mark locations of bulbs and perennials to avoid digging them back up in your spring frenzy. It’s best to save marginally hardy plants and large evergreen specimens for spring planting. Be sure to hit public garden and plant society sales for special offerings. If looking to add fall color, shop for just the right shade later in the month.
Water your fall vegetable garden. If you have a summer-only veggie garden, sow a cover crop of legumes to suppress weeds and add nitrogen.
Build new beds. If you want to expand or claim new beds, use your preferred method to kill or remove grass, then lay down sheets of newspaper or thin cardboard and cover them with 4 inches of mulch. By spring, the paper should have broken down enough to allow good water movement for new plantings.
Bring in houseplants. First frost is not here yet, but the last of the really warm weather is, so bring in any houseplants that spent summer outside. Check them carefully for pests, and treat or trim before bringing them in; pests will multiply quickly once inside.
Paula Gross is the former Assistant Director of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Botanical Gardens.
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