October to be enjoyed, used
By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
We could wax poetic about this time of year on the upcoming month of October with all its glory. There is little need for a garden then, when wild flowers — more of which adorn our roadsides here than just about anywhere in the world — light up our lives for weeks until gray winter finally ends it all.
However, there are the mundane things of the garden world — i.e. work — to require our attention at this juncture. After a summer that was taken up largely by the incessant need for watering, we are far behind on other demands our gardens have in the wings.
Much fall garden work is, in effect, looking toward spring. Things like soil preparation, bulb planting etc. won’t see any visible result until Marchflower time in — when else? — March.
It’s too late now to do anything about the immediate future, save for popping in a potted mum or two and perhaps planting pansies and violas.
Fall grass seeding should be done immediately in order for seed to have time to germinate and grow enough root system to carry through winter. I have had success sowing as late as late October, but that was in years with unusually long autumns.
This is the best time of all for soil preparation. Spring often finds our clay soil a sodden and muddy — remember mud? — mess, impossible to work into reasonable tilth, whereas the only fall problem in that regard is finding enough moisture in the ground to make turning it feasible.
Fall bed and border cleanup will come later, but it isn’t too early to make sure you have at hand a supply of top-dressing. I make it a routine part of fall and winter to top-dress all my perennial and annual beds, and many shrubs, with some kind of natural nutrient. Some years it will be well-rotted horse manure or chicken manure and rice hulls that come out of our local broiler and egg production operations.
Whichever is the easiest available and at the best price — hopefully free — is what I use. Two or 3 inches applied after Thanksgiving will settle to about half that by spring, allowing even minor bulbs and small scale perennials to easily penetrate it when reaching for the light.
Yes, manure is a wonderful elixir for almost any growing thing, but a caveat is in order. Never use cow or hog manures in your gardening. They are so full of weed seeds that the resulting jungle might be enough to completely overwhelm your cultivated areas.
I once used hog and cow manure mixed with sawdust from the local auction sales, and my planted areas became so foul with weeds it took me many years to alleviate the problem.
Spring blooming bulbs must be planted in the fall. Daffodils and crocuses can go in any time, but it is well to wait until after Thanksgiving to put in tulips. If you buy them now, put tulip bulbs in the refrigerator until time to set them out. They can, in fact, be planted any time up until New Year’s and still perform well.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger on 10.02.07