October garden to-do list

This post is for both active gardeners and those of you that want to start a garden or grow something. As much as we are starting to wrap up the 2016 gardening season, there is still plenty to be harvested, seeded, and prepped for the current season and next season (Spring 2017).

Here is your October checklist (according to my checklist):

  •  Harvest your Fall crop! And remove plants that have been fully harvested. This includes pumpkins and winter squash. I plan to leave leak and carrots in the ground at least through October, if not November. dsc_0031
  • Leave bean and pea roots in the soil. I recently read NOT to remove the entire bean and pea plant after it has been harvested. Cut it down to ground level and leave the roots in the soil to continue to release nitrogen into the soil. Many crops remove nitrogen from the soil, but peas and beans add nitrogen into the soil.
  • Add a floating row cover. To try to extend the fall crop season, add a floating row cover. The picture below is a hoop house + a row cover. I suggest building a hoop house in the winter when you are not competing with vegetables to install the hoops. So for now, try a floating row cover. dsc_0038
  • Plant garlic. Choose the location wisely, as the garlic will grow and live in this location until it is harvested in July. Plant either softneck (stores longer and tends to be what you find at the grocery store) or hardneck (doesn’t store as long, but bigger and richer in flavor and harder to find at a grocery store). Thanks to this Encyclopedia Botanica podcast about Planting Garlic, I have already purchased my garlic seed from my local Farmer’s Market so I am all ready to plant in October. I will grow primarily hardneck because we eat a lot of garlic (so I don’t need to worry about storage) and it is not typically sold at grocery stores. A 1/3 of my total garlic planting will be softneck. For more on planting garlic, check out this postDSC_0037
  • Plant Spring flower bulbs. You can plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, ranunculus, lilies, iris, crocus, and more in October. Make note of where you planted your bulbs. I have definitely dug these up a few months later when weeding. Don’t have a yard but have a deck? Then this is for you. You can absolutely grow these bulbs in pots.
  • Plant cover crops. Cover crops can grow in your soil during the winter, adding organic matter and nutrients, and keeping it healthy for next season. You can use clover, fava beans, rye grass, peas, buckwheat and more. If you decide to forego cover crops, be sure to cover your soil in mulch. For more information about cover crops, check out this post by my friend and fellow gardener.
  • Move citrus trees indoors. And any other houseplants that have been outside for the summer. I have a lemon tree that has been living outdoors, as temperatures begin to near low 50s at night, it is important to move indoors.
  • Plant blueberries and fruit trees. In the PNW, you can plant these now or in the Spring. dsc_0008
  • Prune and clean up roses. Of course, only do this after roses have finished blooming. Remove rose leaves on the ground to prevent disease.
  • Lift and divide perennials.  If you want to spread the love of any of your favorite perennials or share them with your friends. This is a great time to lift and divide them while the ground is still warm. Learn more here.

As you can tell, this is a great month to wrap up a fabulous 2016 and already start planting and prepping for 2017.

Important side note: You never have to feel like you need to do all of these things. It is simply a guide to help you decide what you want to do in your garden, yard, or in the pots on your deck.

What is on your checklist to do in the garden in October? Any tips and tricks to share?  

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Garden insects – how to attract the good and reduce the bad

The garden is full of insects, which are so important. Helping to provide nutrients to the soil and pollenate the plants. We definitely want these creepy crawlers. However, there are a few that cause more harm than good. So how do we remove the insects that damage our plants and keep the ones that help to grow them?

My friend and an inspirational gardener, Tracey, has recently taken the time to learn more about garden pest control. She even built a bug hotel! She was generous enough to share some of her learnings (and awesome pics of her garden) with me, check them out.

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Megan: There are so many creepy crawlers in my garden, which ones are helping the garden?

Tracey: OK so I am so passionate about this… Where to start. There are so many beneficial insects. For every bad bug, there is a good bug waiting to help you.

Ladybugs are my fav. We release thousands every year – the trick is to get them to multiply in your garden. The babies are the ones who are the little assassins. They can eat up to 5000 aphids and soft bodies’ pests in their short life time.

I’ve also experimented a lot with Praying mantises, they feed on pests as well, but can also eat your beneficial insects so I’ve given them a rest.

Wasps – I have always had a fear of wasps, until recently! I LOVE beets, plant them ever year as much and often as I can. I started to get Leaf Miners. They are the larva of a nasty fly that lays its eggs on the underside of leaves of beets, spinach, and other veggies. The larva then feed on the leaf creating little tunnels that can destroy your crops. Paper wasps will literally rip the leaf open and grab the larva and bon appetite! They will also hunt caterpillars including corn ear worms, loopers, and cabbage worms. I love watching them eat!

Bees – super pollinators. I have several mason bee houses and am looking at getting a honey bee colony. The best pollinators around. Below is a Coneflower tucked between squash to attract pollinators.

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Lacewings – also eat insects and are great pollinators.

Megan: As a gardener that does not use chemicals for pest control, how do I get the pests under control?

Tracey: Well the best way I’ve found is to create a habitat that encourages beneficial insects to thrive. If they are there, they will help keep the bad guys in check. I have had a hard time finding any cabbage worms on my brussels sprouts this year, but I see tons of wasps around, so I know the wasps are doing their job!

Megan: How do I attract the good bugs?

Tracey: Bug Hotels! Create areas that they can live and find protection. I also like to leave old dead foliage and branches on the ground over winter. Critters can live underneath and get cozy.

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Megan: What else should we know about garden insects?

Tracey: I think that the more you learn about beneficial insects and what they can do for your garden, the more you will want to invite them in! I think right now one of the most important messages I have is to NOT use pesticides. You’re not just killing the bad guys, you’re killing the good guys too!

“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity.
The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things.
The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe.
It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food.
It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses.
It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard.
And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is.
Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time.
And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph.
And then everything dies anyway, right?
But you just keep doing it.”

-Ann Lamott

Thank you Tracey! 

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