If ever there was a month for planting, October is it! This month is dedicated to planting overwintering and cover crops as well as planning your spring garden by way of trees and bulbs. With a bit of preparation and planning, you can have fresh veggies and vibrant garden color well into the winter months.
Fall, with warm days and cool nights, triggers plants to begin shutting down growth on top and directing energy into root development. Cooler weather and seasonal rains make it much less stressful for new plantings This is why FALL IS FOR PLANTING!
You may remember that we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day back in April of this year. Cornell Farm remains committed to sustainable and ecologically friendly gardening practices, and focused on making this planet better. Since planting season is upon us, we would like to encourage our patrons to support these initiatives by choosing native and drought-tolerant plants for their gardens. Instead of planting grass seed for your yard this fall, consider planting some native plants, grasses, and wildflowers instead. You will not only be lowering your water use, but you will be supporting our ecosystem and wildlife.
While you likely have already planted your edible winter crops, you will need to plan to keep these plants protected from frost and freeze as we near the end of October by constructing cloches or using frost protect fabric. Pay mind to the overnight temps (under 34-5 degrees F.), and be sure to have these protectors ready before the first frost!
As your summer plants, perennials, and veggies begin to die back, pull out and compost annuals and other brown foliage, cut back lanky out-of-bloom perennials unless you are leaving seed heads for winter bird forage. Once beds are cleaned up, sow winter cover crops or top off with compost to prevent weeds and enrich next seasons’ soil. If you plan to collect seeds, bring them inside and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Fallen leaves, particularly maple, alder and oak, can provide excellent compost material as well as habitat for beneficial insects and soil microbes. We have some excellent expandable rakes in-stock, which are real space-savers for gardeners short on tool storage space. If you are able, you should leave a little decomposing plant materials in your garden to help promote a healthy ecosystem in areas where you don’t plan to sow cover crops.
While cleaning up your garden, you may find now is a good time to do light pruning out of crossing rose branches. Be sure to use clean, sharp tools!
Finally, once you are satisfied with your winter garden, be sure to spend some time cleaning and storing your gardening tools and hoses. Drain and clean these items, then place them in a dry spot so that they are ready for next season.
After you have cleared space, planting cover crops will cultivate better soil for Spring. Sow hardy crops that favor colder soil temps like fava beans. Be sure to keep these areas covered until they germinate. These cover crops help provide habitat and nutrients for a healthy soil ecosystem.
Early October is the perfect time to plant onions and garlic! We have a wide variety to choose from in-store. Planting these after the fall equinox gives these easy growers a jumpstart, so that they will be among the first sprouts in spring. Aside from the obvious delicious benefits of planting onions and garlic, it also has the added benefit of deterring deer from helping themselves to your veggie garden.
Some varieties of hardy greens like spinach and kale can still be planted in a warm spot in early October. Cover them with a cloche to protect them from the colder evenings. Kale, in particular, is resilient in our cold temperatures, providing greens through the winter months.
Transition citrus plants indoors when night temperatures dip to 38 degrees F., as these tender crops do not stand colder temperatures. Moving plants under cover next to a warm wall for several days, then indoors to a cool but sunny room helps citrus adjust.
Now is the time to consider your spring garden, as spring blooming bulbs are in! Planting bulbs this month will ensure you have beautiful blooms through spring. Cornell Farm has curated a selection of varieties that do well in the PNW climate so that they will multiply year after year!
Roses go on preorder later this month. Consider selecting your 2021 roses for February arrival. We often sellout of in-store stocks, so it’s wise to make a preorder for your spring garden!
If you are looking to add some fall color to your outdoor spaces, grab some mums, pansies, ornamental kale and grasses for containers or gardens. Now is a great time to plant hardy perennials for color throughout the autumn season.
October is the perfect time for planting trees, vines, and shrubs. The moist soil makes for easy digging plus it’s fantastic for root systems. Planting now ensures your trees and shrubs are able to develop a successful, deep root system over the colder winter months, before spending time and nutrients building foliage above ground. Be sure to water your trees in immediately after planting, and continue regularly watering until daytime temps drop below forty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Use Hemlock mulch to help protect new trees as a way to retain moisture and nutrients.
We often have guests ask us which trees and shrubs they should plant for vibrant, fall color. Our expert, Darla, suggests the following: