October FAQs

Fertilizing: Don’t, except for lawns or new bulbs. See Sept.


Q – Do I have to rake?
A – It’s best not to let layers of whole leaves pack down for the winter, as this can kill the grass underneath. You can run a lawnmower over the leaves to shred them. If collecting the leaves for compost, layer them with kitchen vegetable or garden waste,  and thin layers of soil in the compost pile to help them decompose properly. Run over them first with the lawnmower to shred them, if you want to speed decomposition.

Q – What care does my lawn require now?
A – Continue to water during dry periods. Apply fall (low-nitrogen) or winterizing lawn fertilizer this month, but hold off if there is not enough rain or watering for good growth. Fall is also a good time to lime a lawn, if needed. It’s also a great time to start a new lawn.

Mulching gardens: Wait till later. See November’s entry.


Q – Why bother to clean up the perennial garden; isn’t it true that stems help hold snow to provide a winter mulch?
A – Yes, this is true, and also a good justification if you don’t have time for fall chores. However, some pests and diseases can over-winter in dead perennial material, and removing waste helps prevent worse problems next year. Plants that especially benefit from fall clean-up are summer phlox, peonies, roses, and German irises, which may harbor problems you can’t yet see. Anytime you actually notice pests or disease, it is good practice to clean up the plants in the fall and put the refuse in the trash, not in the compost. Use fresh mulch for winter protection (after the ground freezes).

Planting: See September questions.
Plant spring-flowering bulbs now! Bulbs can be planted right until the ground freezes.

Pruning: Don’t prune now. See September questions.


Q – How do I help my roses survive through winter?
A – It is too early to provide protection (see November questions). Continue to provide plants with water and do not fertilize.

Trees & Shrubs:

Q – What can I do to keep my Rhododendrons from turning brown?
And how can I get my Rhododendrons to stay healthy through winter?
A – When planting the shrub in the first place, put it in a site that will be protected from winter sun, which dries out the leaves at a time the plant cannot replenish moisture through the frozen soil. Make sure the plant is well-watered through summer and fall. Rhodies are shallow-rooted and very susceptible to dry conditions. Apply Wilt-Stop in late November and again in mid January.


Q – Do I have to water?
A – Continue to water if we do not get at least 1” rain per week. Plants planted this year especially will need regular, deep watering.

Timely tips:
• Wrap tree guards around lower portions of trunks of smaller trees, as high as snow is likely to cover, to protect bark from rodent damage.
• Purchase products to winterize the garden: mulches, burlap, stakes, rose cones and collars, Wilt-Stop.     

• If there is little rain, water your plants.         

• Plant spring-flowering bulbs. 

• Lime your lawn, if it needs it.     

• Rake lawns and beds.                   

• Destroy all diseased or bug infested garden debris.