October Organic Gardening Tasks

This calendar was originally published for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Please note that the world of organics is ever-changing with new products on the market. I suggest you find your local organic nursery and get to know the personnel, ask questions and know what Gardening Zone you are in to purchase your best plant selections.

A shot of a pumpkin, focused on its stem.

Fall Pumpkins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Time for third granular fertilization of the year to fruit and nut trees. Spread at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet and organic fertilizer, such as Garden‑Ville, GreenSense, Bradfield, or Sustane. For additional nutrients, apply soft rock phosphate or Sul‑Po‑Mag at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
  • Prepare houseplants to return inside. Run out critters by adding 1 tablespoon of seaweed and 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water and drench the soil. A handful of dry molasses across the top of the container will run out the fireants in a few days. Hand wipe foliage to clean off spider webs.
  • Divide and trim foliage of iris, daylilies, cannas, and peonies. Before transplanting, soak divisions for a few hours or overnight in a mild solution of seaweed. Fill the hole with water and allow it to drain. Place a handful of earthworm castings and soft rock (colloidal)  phosphate or Rabbit Hill Farms Bulb Food in the bottom of each hole before replanting.
  • Bring your poinsettia indoors to a sunny area when temperatures drop below 60. In October begin placing it in complete darkness for 14 hours a day. For the remainder of the day, place in a sunny window. Continue this treatment until December. Then bring it into full, indirect sun in December. By Christmas, it should produce bracts.

    poinsetta

    poinsetta (Photo credit: sfullenwider)

  • Order bulbs to plant in November: tulips, narcissus, daffodils, snowflake, scilla peruviana, candy lilies, bearded iris, Louisiana iris, crocosmia, oriental lilies, madonna lily, crinums, Chinese ground orchid, oxalis, and rain lilies.
  • Early October is a great time to multiply your roses. To propagate roses, cut sections of 1 to 2 feet of pencil width wood. Cut sections 1/4″ above an outward‑facing bud.  Then, cut the sections into pieces 8 or 9 inches long.  Make an angled cut above the top bud and a straight cut below the bottom bud.  Soak the pieces in a seaweed mixture or willow bark tea overnight.  Plant in Rabbit Hill Farm’s Big Pot soil.  Keep soil moist with seaweed solution.  Pieces should root within 8 weeks. In early spring transplant small plants to the  garden.
  • The next two weeks are your last chance to plant solid sod before freezing temperatures.  If you have bare spots, planting solid sod now will establish roots over the winter and jumpstart the lawn in the spring.
  • Purchase prechilled bulbs for forcing holiday blooms while supplies are plentiful. Choose large bulbs that show no signs of mildew or rot. Place bulbs in shallow dishes, leaving at least 1/2 of the bulb exposed to the air. Use gravel, stones or potting soil to bury the bottom half. Add enough water to thoroughly moisten the soil or to barely cover the stones or gravel. Place in cool dark area of refrigerator or greenhouse until plant shoots begin to emerge. When shoots are 1 to 2 inches, bring the container into a well‑lit room. Turn the container every few days so growth remains as straight as possible. When buds form, add fish emulsion or seaweed to the watering routine.
  • Continue feeding all foliage with a spray of fish emulsion and/or seaweed products. Being diligent once a week will prepare plants for winter freezes.
  • Divide spring blooming perennials. Add a handful of earthworm castings to the bottom of each hole when replanting.
  • #6127 coral honeysuckle (ツキヌキニンドウ)

    Coral honeysuckle (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

    Purchase and plant vines to cover unsightly walls or fences. Good choices for North Texas are autumn clematis, Virginia creeper, Boston ivy, cross vine and coral honeysuckle.

  • Need a fall/winter project for the children that will also teach? Purchase a bird book and help children identify different species that appear at backyard feeders throughout the winter months.
  • Collect and dry rose hips for a tea high in Vitamin C during winter months. To use, boil for 10 minutes in water to bring out the nutrients and flavor. The water will turn a light pink after steeping. The number used for per cup of water will depend on how strong you like taste.
  • Dig up lemongrass bulb if you don’t want to repurchase in the spring. Cut off foliage and hang in the kitchen to use in cooking. Store bulb wrapped in newspaper in cool, dry area.
  • Take advantage of Mother Nature’s rain. Purchase rain barrels or make your own with a plastic trash can. Cut out a hole to fit rain guttering so water will drain into container.
  • Finish planting cool season crops and flowers. For salad greens, plant a container of Johnny‑jump‑ups, calendula, salad burnet, chervil and parsley. Cool‑season flowers and foliage include pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and kale. Need to fill in a space in flowerbed? Sprinkle annual seeds of love‑in‑the‑mist, larkspur, phlox and Shirley poppy.
  • Bring in the last of your houseplants before heavy frost. To rid them of bugs, add 1 tablespoon of seaweed and 2 tablespoons of vinegar per gallon of water and drench the soil. A handful of dry molasses across the top of the container will run out any fire ants in a few days. Hand wipe foliage to clean off spider webs.
  • Do a light dusting of DE inside and out at door thresholds to discourage insects from coming in during winter. Reapply every 3 months.
  • Cleaning cutting boards is a task that should be done at least once every year. Spray with vinegar first and then immediately spray with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse and air‑dry. Spray each solution separately, one after the other for effective results at destroying e‑coli and salmonella.
  • Harvest the last of your basil before freeze. To make basil vinegar, fill half of a one‑gallon glass container with washed and air‑dried basil. Finish filling the container with rice vinegar or white vinegar. Cover and allow to steep for a month or steep to taste. When ready, strain and bottle. To make a simple pesto, wash and dry 4 cups of fresh basil leaves. Put basil and 6 large cloves of minced garlic in a food processor. While the motor is on, drizzle in 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube until the leaves are pureed. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Place in covered container and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days or freeze it for later use. Variations on the recipe may include pine nuts or Parmesan cheese.
  • Empty the water from hoses and store them before a freeze.
  • Harvest the last of your herbs and make ice cubes to melt in warm soups or other dishes. Parsley or basil can be washed, patted dry, or chopped in a food processor. Add olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Spoon into ice‑cube tray and freeze. Transfer to a resealable plastic freeze bag to save storage space. Another way to freeze is to pack leaves into the bottom of a quart‑size resealable bag. Make a thick layer and roll up the bag. Secure with rubber bands and freeze. Slice as needed.
  • Prepare your attic for critters seeking winter shelter. Seal any openings to the outside. If you still have unwanted critters, saturate cotton balls with fox urine. Squirrels and rats will avoid the area because it will smell like a predator. Place the saturated balls into a yogurt container or film canister with holes poked in the lid. Another solution? Dusting with hot pepper. Lightly dust Boric Acid in the attic, at back of cabinets and behind refrigerator to kill roaches.
  • Harvest the last of fall vegetables before freeze. For light freezes, keep crops warm with row cover or light blankets. Remove any covering on warmer days so plants do not dry out.
  • For easy access, repair trellis, arbors and other wood structures while perennials and annuals are dormant.
  • Start new roses by taking cuttings from mature canes.  Remove the lower leaves of 5 to 6 inch long cuttings.  Stick in the soil and cover with a canning jar or cloche.  Water if the winter is dry.  In the spring, a new rose plant should be well on its way.
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4 comments

  1. […] the personnel, ask questions and know what Gardening Zone you are in … … View post: October Organic Gardening Tasks « God Girl Gail ← Russia's Small-Scale Organic Agriculture Model May Hold the Key to […]

  2. Gail, whew, I’m tired just reading all the things I must do in the next few weeks. Thanks so much for the tips on basil. I’ve got a bunch and hate to waste one leaf. Also thanks for the helps on getting rid of fire ants in the pots. This year has been a battle with the tough,angry little critters. Grabbing my gloves and heading for the yard this morning. Writing will have to wait.

    DiAne

    1. October can definitely be a busy month in the garden! Splitting the month calendar into weeks, then down to days makes it look less daunting! And, yes, my pots have the pesky fire ants this year too.

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