October a great month for quick garden projects

Garlic cloves should be planted three to four inches deep and spaced six to eight inches apart.
October 10, 2012

October is a month of ogres, vampires and werewolves, and fittingly the month to plant garlic. Use garlic to ward off the "evil eye" and as a practical mosquito repellent. To grow your own, buy some local garlic from the farmers market or roadside stands.  Locally grown garlic will be adapted to your local home garden climate. Or buy some certified organic garlic at the store.  Plant only firm, healthy cloves.  Set the cloves right side up in a row just three to four inches deep. Deep planting like this keeps the soil moist without a mulch.  Space your cloves about six to eight inches apart in the row. Top with a bit of organic fertilizer or some compost.  Early next spring, your garlic will likely be the first crop poking up through the last of the snow.

October is also a good month to mulch perennial beds with loose organic matter such as old straw, bark chips, or leaves.

Indoors, October is time to begin forcing your poinsettia plants to bloom for Christmas. Poinsettias need 14 hours of total, uninterrupted darkness from now through mid-November to form buds.  Keep them cool at night, with a steady temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees F. Try putting them in a dark closet every night, and taking them out each morning.

This is a good time to have a little fun with your lawn.  Scatter small bulbs across the lawn and plant them where they fall. Try any flowers with thin, grassy foliage so they blend in with the grass after the flowers fade. You need to leave the foliage until it yellows naturally so that the bulbs can store enough energy to flower the next season.

Besides Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus) try dwarf irises, Iris reticulate and Iris danfordiae, stunning blue Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa spp.), blue grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.) royal blue Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) and the early blooming white snowdrops (Galanthus spp.).

Lawn-planted bulbs do best in full sun, though many bulbs do fine under deciduous trees.  The trees do not leaf out and shade the flowers until the bulbs have already bloomed and begun to absorb sunlight.  Plant bulbs in large numbers in big informal drifts. Use a garden trowel or bulb planter to slip the small bulbs into the grass.  Try planting about 15 to 20 bulbs per square foot.  In the spring, try not to mow for at least two months and then set your mower blades to the highest setting.  This will retain as much of the bulbs’ foliage as possible and greatly increase the odds of the plants coming back year after year.

Collect seeds from self-pollinated plants such as beans, chicory, endive, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, and flowers such as cleome, four o’clocks, foxgloves, hollyhock, nasturtium, sweet pea and zinnia.   Store the seeds in a paper envelope on which you have written the name, color, and date of the seeds.  Keep your seed envelopes inside a jar.

October is a great month to put your garden to sleep, to save seeds for a new garden next year and if all else fails, to plant garlic to ward off vampires, werewolves and perhaps the common cold.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.