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Gardening Tasks for October in SE Wisconsin

garden, home, outdoor activity

It's Fall, and time to plan your garden for next year and do all you can now to make your lawn look great.  In October you should:

PERENNIALS: Dig and divide Peonies after a hard frost.  Collect and sow seeds of Coneflowers and Rudbeckias. Clean up dead or diseased leaves, but leave healthy plants standing that provide winter cover and food for birds and other small animals.  Autumn Joy sedum and ornamental grasses are two great examples of plants that provide tons of food and shelter for our overwintering birds.  They also provide interest in the winter landscape when you leave these plants standing.  Spread compost at this time, but do not fertilize until spring. 

SHRUBS:  Continue to plant shrubs as long as the ground is still workable.  Continue to water your plants until the ground freezes because they will have a better chance of winter survival if they are well watered now.  Only prune out dead, broken or diseased branches.  Pruning healthy shrubs now exposes their inner stems to wind and freezing.

TREES: October is a great month to plant trees, but there are certain types that you should only plant in the spring.  Avoid planting trees now that are slow to root.  Check with your local garden shop to determine which trees can be planted in the fall.  Evergreens need to be planted by early October. 

BULBS: Plant Daffodils, Tulips, Crocus and other spring-flowering bulbs.  Try planting them in a patch of vinca vine or other ground covers for fun early spring color.

ANNUALS: Make sure you let re-seeding annuals drop their seeds and don't rake them up.  Cosmos, Alyssum, Cleome, and Snapdragons all drop their seeds and will pop up next year if left undisturbed.  Spread their seeds around, or gather them and share with gardening friends.

LAWNS: You can still lay sod in October.  The key is proper soil preparation and watering.  In our area, core aeration is still OK, just make sure there are still 4 weeks of good growing after you do the core aeration.  Late October is the most important fertilizer application time for your lawn.  Use a slow-release nitrogen fertlizer for best results.  After a hard frost you can apply a broadleaf herbicide to Creeping Charlie and other hard to control weeds in mid-to late October.

VEGGIE GARDENS: Don't forget to write down your successes and failures now from your veggie garden.  Use this to plan for next year.  Many times I've forgotten what variety of carrot worked and what didn't because I didn't bother to write it down. 

Take the time to test your soil.  Take several samples from different areas of your yard to find out what deficiencies your soil has.  The test results will tell you how and when to add the amendments your soil needs.  Here's information on how to get your soil tested:  http://uwlab.soils.wisc.edu/

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