Monthly Gardening Tips

Task Calendar For Local Gardeners (October)
(Source:, NYTimes)

Check next month for a new list of tips and tasks!


  • Brush your root crops clean of any soil and store in a cool, dark place. Never refrigerate potatoes and apples together; the apples give off ethylene gas, which will spoil the potatoes. Clipping the tops of parsnips, carrots, beets, and turnips will keep them fresher longer.
  • Dig up and store dahlias, gladioli, and other tender plants after the foliage is killed by a frost. Store over the winter.


  • Place chicken wire on the ground over newly planted bulbs to deter animals from digging.
  • Plant hardy spring-flowering bulbs such as tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs and crocus corms. Don’t be too quick to cover them with mulch or it may attract animals. Wait until the ground freezes.
  • Harvest any remaining vegetables sensitive to frost, including winter squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.
  • Plant garlic now for harvesting next summer.
  • Plant snowdrop, hyacinth, and star of Bethlehem bulbs.
  • Put some parsley plants in a box and place the box in a light cellar or shed.
  • Begin preparing tools for storage by cleaning them once you’re finished with them.
  • Harvest brussels sprouts when ready to eat; they’ll sweeten through the cold snaps.
  • Stop deadheading, start seed saving. Take a look at the seed heads that you are cutting off. Instead of removing these seed heads, let some of them ripen until they turn brown and split open. These seed capsules are like salt shakers full of tiny seeds. Scatter the seeds anywhere that you would like them to grow or just let them drop where they are. And leave some dried seed heads for the birds, too!   Learn more about 20 self-sowing flowers.  The following flowers are self sowers:  Annuals: calendula, nigella, love-lies-bleeding, poppies, cleome, alyssum, verbena, bachelor buttons, portulaca; Biennial: foxglove, lunaria, forget-me-nots, hollyhocks; Perennial: columbine, primrose, panises, lupine, coreopsis, echinacea, mallows, New England asters.


  • Paint any garden structures that need it. Repair garden fences.
  • Be sure to remove any leaves from your lawn to help reduce lawn problems; use as mulch for plants; shred leaves and add to compost.
  • Look for slug egg masses under mulch and destroy.
  • Clean up your lawn and garden. Remove any dead or diseased plants, leaves, and twigs; a clean garden means fewer diseases next spring.
  • Do not prune spring-flowering shrubs.
  • If your peony isn’t blooming, or it is too large or misplaced, consider moving it now.
  • Prune overbearing raspberries.
  • Transplant trees, shrubs, and rosebushes.
  • Did you test your soil? If you need to raise or lower the pH of your soil, add the required amendments, such as sulfur or lime, this fall because they take some time to work.  While the Rutgers Cooperative is closed to visitors, you can still mail your soil sample for testing.
  • Cut perennials 3 to 4 inches from the ground once the flower stalks have died and turned brown.
  • Leave seed heads on asters, sunflowers, and cosmos for birds to eat over the winter.
  • Remember to edge your garden borders if you have not already done so.
  • Don’t overdo the garden cleanup.  Some garden debris creates a habitat for insects and anthropods critical to our gardens for things like pollination (bumble bees)  moth larvae (attracting birds) and spiders that offer pest control in our gardens.
  • Early autumn is the best time to lightly fertilize your lawn to promote root growth and prepare it for the next growing season. Don’t wait until spring, as the fertilizer will be less effective then. In the fall, your grass needs to recover from the summer heat and can best use the nutrients provided by a fertilizer. Use a turf builder or fertilizer meant for winterizing lawns (with a low middle number for NPK such as 32-0-10). 
  • If you seed a lawn, you certainly want the seeds to thrive without competition for nutrients from troublemaking perennial broadleaf weeds. Fall is the best time to address this issue; don’t wait until spring, when weeds emerge. Perennial broadleaf weeds are transporting food (carbohydrates) from their foliage to their roots in preparation for winter. Visit your local garden center to find out about organic and traditional weed solutions.
  • It’s also a good time to overseed your lawn so that it’s thicker and lusher next season. To overseed, first cut your grass shorter than usual, then remove the grass clippings and lightly spread seed across the entire lawn with a fertilizer spreader, following instructions on the grass seed bag for overseeding. Keep lightly watered until new growth is at least 3 inches tall.