University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
NEW BEDS AND OTHER OCTOBER GARDENING TIPS
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
Preparing new garden beds for next spring, enriching the
soil for next year’s garden, and storing tender summer bulbs, are some of the
gardening tips for this month.
You'll make lots less work for yourself next spring if you
begin any new garden beds now. If the area is in lawn, cut the grass low, then
cover the ground with several layers of dampened newspaper topped with several
inches of mulch, compost or manure. By spring the sod will have decomposed and
you can dig in the organic matter, add any needed amendments, and plant.
As you empty annual beds this
fall, there are two main ways to enrich the soil for next year: spreading
compost or planting cover crops. Before you spread compost, dig or lightly till
in any plants that aren't diseased to return nutrients to the soil. Spread
compost, even if it's not well decomposed yet. It will protect the soil over
the winter and break down by spring planting time. Or you can plant cover
crops, such as buckwheat or annual rye that will grow this fall and early
spring until you till it under several weeks before planting.
Ok, ok, so maybe the weeds have
already taken over. Don't give up. Get them out of your garden or else they will
make it doubly hard for you next spring. Since bare soil invites weeds, cover
bare soil with mulch, such as layers of wet newspaper covered with straw,
compost, or manure. This will control late fall and early spring weed growth
and provide organic matter.
Begin preparing tools for storage
by cleaning them once you're finished with them. Wipe the soil off shovels,
spades, and trowels using a rag or wire brush, then wipe blades with an oiled
cloth. Make sure pruners are free from dirt and plant debris, and wipe down the
blades with the oiled cloth. Empty any pots of dead plants and soil, adding the
debris to the compost pile unless the plants were diseased. In that case,
dispose of the plants in the garbage or a location far away from your garden.
Rinse pots, or better yet, soak them in a bucket of water to which some bleach
has been added. Rinse well.
Plant garlic now for harvesting
next summer. Purchase garlic sold specifically for planting, or buy organic
garlic. Commercial, non-organic, supermarket garlic may have been treated to
inhibit sprouting. Break the garlic head into individual cloves, keeping the
largest ones for planting. (Use the small cloves for cooking.) Plant cloves
about three inches apart with the pointy side up. Try some different varieties
to see which you prefer. Mulch the bed well with straw.
If you test your soil and add any
needed amendments now, the soil will be ready for planting when you are in the
spring. Some amendments take time to break down and become available to plants.
If you have a nearby Extension Service office, you can take advantage of their
low-priced soil testing service. If not, you can send a soil sample away to a
soil lab, or get a do-it-yourself kit. Most plants prefer a slightly acidic
soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 (a pH of 7 is neutral). New
England soils tend to be acidic and frequently require the
addition of lime. But your soil can vary from location to location in your
yard, so if you notice different characteristics of the soil in different beds, test them
When finished flowering or when
frost kills the foliage, carefully dig the corms of gladiolus, crocosmias, and
acidanthera and spread them out in a dry, well-ventilated area at room
temperature for two to three weeks. Then remove and discard the old corms.
Store the new corms in paper bags in a 35- to 40-degree location.
After the foliage has been
damaged by frost, allow cannas to dry in the ground for a few days, then cut
back the stems to three to four inches and carefully dig the rhizomes and let
them dry at room temperature for a few days. Store in cardboard boxes or mesh
bags filled with vermiculite or peat moss at 40 to 50 degrees for the winter.
In spring, plant the entire clump or separate the rhizomes, leaving a portion
of the old stem attached to each one. (Corms and rhizomes are merely the official
names of the “roots” or underground stems and storage organs of these plants.)
Return to Perry's Perennial