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Master Gardener: October chores

Lawns. Apply fall pre-emergence herbicides, if needed, to control winter annuals such as spurweed, henbit and chickweed. Fescue can be sodded. Drain down your mower’s gas tank and run until the engine stops after the season’s final mowing. Keep lawns raked of leaves as they smother grass and utilize as chopped mulch or add to the compost pile. Lawns should be 2” high going into winter.

Trees/Shrubs. Bare-root and balled-burlapped trees should be bought and planted when they are dormant - mid-October through mid-March. Water newly planted trees often and thoroughly through second year. Most shrubs can be planted now.

Annuals. Clean out dead growth and add to compost unless diseased. Seeds of cornflower, larkspur, poppies and Queen Anne’s lace can be mixed with sand (for even distribution) and sown now.

Bulbs. Plant crocus and daffodils after soil has cooled. Plant in odd numbered- groupings (5 to 7) in moderate to full sun location. Bulbs being nibbled on? Try wire screen around bulbs, moth balls, hot pepper or tobacco mixed in the soil. Lift elephant ear, caladium and glad bulbs and place in cool, dry storage (not below freezing). After frost blackens dahlia foliage, dig tubers, clean off dirt, dry in sun and cut off all but 1” of stem. Store in peat moss and keep the tubers from touching. Fertilize hardy bulbs. Water in and mulch. Delay planting lilies or tulips.

Perennials. Divide early bloomers. Finish perennial planting by month’s end. Trim plants to ground level once foliage has gone dormant.

Houseplants. All plants should be inside by now. Mid-month is a good time to start preparing Christmas cactus and poinsettias for Christmas bloom. Place each plant in complete darkness for about 15 hours every night until the holidays. Clean windows so plants can receive as much natural sunlight as possible. Keep plants evenly moistened by either misting them or setting them on pebbles in trays with a small amount of water added. Such groupings encourage a more humid atmosphere. Decrease feeding of plants.

Roses. Continue to enjoy blooms. Good time to plant more.

Vegetables. Plant garlic now, 3-5” apart in an upright position, 1/2-1” deep. Rinse tomato cages and stakes with a bleach/water mix prior to storage to cut down on disease in next year’s crop. Average freeze date for River Valley: November 1st.

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