Now is the time to start planting hardy spring and summer flowering bulbs like crocus, daffodil, tulip, alliums and lilies. Consider some of the less popular bulbs like Scilla, Chionodoxa and our native Camassia. They are quite delightful and much more rodent resistant than crocus or tulips.
October also means garlic bulb planting time. Plant your garlic cloves in a sunny, well drained location. You will be rewarded by delicious, homegrown garlic next year. More information on growing garlic here.
After the first killing frost, it’s time to dig up and store tender bulbs and tubers – things like Dahlia, Canna, and Colocasia.
Start fall garden clean-up – carefully. Remove sickly things first. Plants that have evidence of disease or insect infestation should be removed from the garden and generally should not be added to your compost pile. Where possible, leave plants in place as food, cover and habitat for critters, although you may want to consider removing the seed heads of rampant self-seeders.
Also where possible, leave fallen leaves in place as natural (and free!) mulch. There are many critters snuggling into that blanket of leaves to sleep through winter. Disturbing the leaves can expose and kill them. Where leaves must be removed, you can use them directly as mulch in another area, add them to your compost pile, or create valuable leaf mold for your garden.
Make sure evergreens go into winter fully hydrated – especially those planted recently or in exposed sites. Evergreens will continue to lose moisture through their needles or leaves in the winter but will be unable to take up water if the soil is frozen. They can be damaged or even killed if they go into winter dehydrated.
White deer tail damage can increase as the temperatures drop and there is less food available. Consider techniques to reduce deer browsing on foliage of vulnerable plants. Also, around this time of year, bucks will rub their antlers on young trees. So fencing or caging is important for protecting the bark of newly planted trees.
I hate to say it, but… weed. Winter hardy weeds can make great progress taking over your flowerbeds, because they continue to grow while the plants start their winter sleep. If you can get them out now, things will be much better come spring.
For something a bit more fun… survey your garden for fall interest. Often we do much of our garden shopping in the spring and can end up with a spring heavy – fall light display. So if you have any areas that could use some fall punch, make a note of it for next year.