October brings us cooler temperatures, frost in the mornings, a return to rains, leaves to rake, and general garden cleanup in Snohomish County. Below are some tips to help you prepare for the changing season. To find information on vegetables and fruits see the section on EDIBLES. See FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE to find timely tips for everything from annuals and perennials to trees and shrubs. Tasks for lawn care can be found in LAWNS. See PLANT OF THE MONTH for our favorite plant picks. GENERAL OVERALL MAINTENANCE
Begin the improvement of your soil. Great soil promotes healthy plants.
Get a soil test before adding amendments. Soil tests from several areas of your garden and lawn will indicate which areas need which amendments.
Be sure to get separate tests for flower beds, vegetable beds, and lawns. They all have slightly different requirements. One-size does not fit all.
Harvest and store late apples and pears. Most pears are ready to pick when the stems separate easily from the spur, but fall and winter pears still look “green” when they are ready to harvest.
Continue harvesting the cold-hardy crops you planted in the spring and late summer (e.g., leeks, chard, kale, collards, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, beets, and turnips). Some of these crops can benefit from mulching or shelter (cloches, cold frames, low and high tunnels). For more information see
Store containers of non-hardy perennials in greenhouses, garages, or protected areas.
Now is the time to hit those nurseries for sales to acquire plants to add to your garden.
This is a great time to plant shrubs and trees.
In October and early November, many plants can be divided and replanted. Check online for tables on which plants to divide in autumn and which do better in spring.
Desire some early spring color? Plant spring-blooming bulbs.
Bulbs in pots can be placed closely together and layered: larger bulbs (hyacinth, alliums) in the deeper layer, tulips and medium bulbs staggered to be between the lower bulbs but above them in another layer, and tiny bulbs (snowdrops, crocus, etc.) in the top layer.
Add spring bulbs to your perennial beds. Read the instructions to determine if a bit of fertilizer is suggested for the planting hole.
PLANT OF THE MONTH Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ ka-la-ma-GROSS-tis x a-kyoo-tih-FLOR-ah
Calamagrostis x acutiflora or Feather Reed Grass is an outstanding grass to have in the garden. It provides eye-catching interest, structure and gentle movement. It is a perfect structural piece that will provide background to the plants around it.
This is a deciduous, ornamental grass that will go dormant in the fall, however, the winter interest it brings encourages us to leave it standing.
It is grown in zones 5-9, full sun, can tolerate moist soils. It can tolerate some shade during the day, however, too much will cause the flowers to get leggy and fall over.
The grass itself grows to 3 feet and the pinkish-bronze, feathery flower stalks may reach 5 feet.
The grass is a nice green in the summer and turns golden in the winter. The seed head also turns a light golden color in the winter.
The seed heads provide food for the birds and visual interest as they catch a breeze.
Cut clumps to the ground in late winter as new shoots begin to appear.
Recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society and 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year.