In October, many gardeners’ thoughts turn to clean-up and buttoning down for winter. But don’t scrub your trowel just yet—many plants thrive when planted in the fall, even in the North, and our weather for the first 10 days of the month looks lovely. Here are a few to add to your shopping list to plant in October.
Bulbs. Of course, many bulbs can be planted in October, especially in the first two weeks of the month. Daffodils, crocus and the minor bulbs, such as glory of the snow, grape hyacinths or Iris reticulata, will have plenty of time to grow roots and get established during October’s temperate weather. Tulips can be planted very late in the season. As long as you can dig in the soil, you can plant tulips. If you are looking for information on bulbs, you might want to check out Cornell University’s Bulb Research Program. (I heard about it on one of my favorite garden podcasts.) Cornell has conducted research on many bulb practices, such as forcing or in-ground planting. One interesting tidbit: You do not have to plant bulbs as deep as many packages suggest! I was relieved to hear that since I never dig an 8- or 9-inch hole for bulbs.
Trees and Shrubs. With more moderate temperatures and a dormant period ahead of them, trees and shrubs often find fall planting less stressful than spring planting. While you can plant trees and shrubs later in the fall, if you plant in October it gives them the best chance at success—plus many nurseries would like to reduce their stock for winter and sales are common. Follow planting recommendations from the nursery and get the trees or shrubs in the ground soon after purchase. Be sure to water them regularly (daily at first, then every other day) to ensure they get established and send out roots. This is especially important if you are in the part of Minnesota currently experiencing drought. Water until the ground freezes, then put down a 2-inch layer of mulch, which will help prevent frost heaving in the spring.
Perennials. Can you plant perennials in October? Well, some of them. I’ve had good luck planting native perennials in fall and, if the weather stays warmish for the next few weeks, you could definitely plant perennials. Generally, planting in October is okay for spring-blooming perennials. Those that bloom later in the year grow better when planted in spring. With perennials, there are advantages and disadvantages to planting in October.
Garlic. Unless you have a hoop-house or other cover, fall is the end of the vegetable season, except for garlic! Plant cloves in the garden in October for a great harvest next spring. This article from Northern Gardener has all the information you need on growing garlic in Minnesota.
Cover crops. It’s probably too late to plant cover crops now, but consider this technique for your vegetable garden next year. Usually, cover crops are planted as gardeners harvest and clean up the vegetable garden. Most cover crops take a week to 10 days to germinate, will grow for a few weeks, then die over winter. This living mulch suppresses weeds in fall and spring and feeds the soil. For more on cover crops, check out the MSHS webinar shop for an excellent presentation on fall garden preparations and cover cropping.
What will you plant in October this year?
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