5 Things on the October Garden List; Zone 6b (2020)

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

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It's the end of harvesting. I still need to dig the rest of my potatoes and beets out of the ground to store for winter and I'm planning a trip. Not far. lol Just to one of the many U-Pick orchards in Nova Scotia to get some apples for making pectin and jam.

Cosmos and sunflowers in bloom in September garden
Cosmos and Sunflowers just before storm Teddy.

October is just around the corner and although there is still a lot of life in our garden, with cosmos still blooming, onion tops haven’t died back yet and lots of bees and other insects still around. It is time to think about winter prep.

With that in mind, these five things are on our list for the next month:

1.Continue harvesting seeds. I have gathered seeds from my cucumbers, spinach, peas, beans

Large partially dried pea pods hanging from a pole supported vine.
Our biggest and best peas drying on vine for seed saving.

and several flowers. I still have lettuce and a few carrot plants that have gone to seed to gather. The lettuce seeds are ready to harvest, when the flower heads dry out and have puffs of white

Small yellow flowers on green tall lettuce stalks.
Yellow lettuce flowers.

cotton coming out around the top, similar to a dandelion. The easiest way to collect seeds is to carefully pinch the flower heads off the plant, and drop them into a brown paper bag. After an additional week or two drying in the bag, I give a shake and then separate seeds from debris.

Make sure seeds are completely dry. They should snap / break apart or you cannot make an indent mark on it with your fingernail. Once dry, store in an airtight container in a dark place till spring.

Saving seeds is a newer thing for me. I started last year with yellow onions and a few flowers but I'm really digging in this year. I have been learning about heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid seed types and also how the species of plant matters when choosing your garden seeds to save. I plan to do a future blog article on saving seeds.

2. Heavily mulch carrots. I plan to leave a test spor of my carrots in the garden this year to harvest over the winter months. In previous years we have harvested all, blanched and frozen them. I have been hearing about how much sweeter they taste when left in the ground and harvested in January or February, so this year that is the plan. I know there are other root vegetables you can do this with. We like carrots, so therefore, carrots. I will put a foot of leaves and straw over them and cover that with one of the old bed sheets I use for frost cover.

Hopefully, in January I can make a video of us digging fresh carrots, that are still edible, from the garden for supper.

3.Plant garlic. We harvested our garlic this summer. When we did, we saved our largest heads to plant this fall. A good rule of thumb for when to plant garlic is between Thanksgiving and Halloween. (four to six weeks before the ground freezes)

Wicker basket on grass filled with garlic bulbs with stalks attached.
Basket of freshly harvested garlic.

We will prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of at least 6 in. Just before planting, break up the garlic heads into individual cloves, leaving as much of the papery covering on each clove intact as possible. Plant cloves 3" to 4" deep, orienting them so the pointy ends face up. Then water lightly to settle the soil, and cover the bed with a 4" to 6" layer of straw.

As air temperatures drop, the soil will stay warm enough for the cloves to establish roots before the ground freezes. Sometimes you'll see some green shoots form in fall; a few are fine, but you don’t want them as they take away from the bulb nutrients. That is why not to plant too early. Your garlic plants will begin growing early in spring.

New garlic shoots showing up through straw mulch.
New garlic coming up in the spring.

4. Plant new flower bulbs and separate existing clumps. I want to add more perennial bulbs to my flower beds for cut flowers and drying flowers. I have purchased some tulip bulbs, purple sensation allium, and allium sphaerocephalon. Also in the box (mixed bee garden) with the allium there is some scilla siberica and romance crocus so I will plant them in the yard as well.

I have planted tulip bulbs in the past and something eats them. I have only a parrot tulip that has persisted. It is beautiful and I enjoy seeing it every summer.

From all my new gardening learning I've been doing, I have learned a couple tricks to try and see if I can keep my tulips. The first one is I will put a layer of dog hair around my tulip bulbs when I put them in the ground. The second is, I will put small stones in a circle around each bulb in the ground. That poor vole’s teeth. These tulips will be in my fenced garden so I shouldn't have to worry about the deer above ground when they do bloom next year.

Any large clumps of my lilies we will want to separate now also. I know they say when separating clumps of bulb plants, to dig up the clump and separate it with two garden forks. We haven't. We'll just dig around the side that we are going to cut off. Use a spade to cut down through it and move the new part to it's new home. Fill in the hole and do not disturb the other half of original clump.

5. As in September, I will make sure my strawberry runners are in the dirt. I press the new plant shoot in the dirt in its existing pot (if not too full) or in another pot. I put a rock on the runner to get it to stay put while roots establish.

Since our strawberries are in pots, we will need to get a spot ready to over-winter them. Instead of taking them into our unheated shed for the winter I am going to just dig a trench, set them in it and put mulch over them. The reason for this is I want them to survive the cold winter in the containers but want nature to water them so I don’t forget to. I will set them in their trench now but wait until the ground has received a hard frost before mulching. The ground should be frozen with daytime temperatures around freezing before covering. Covering strawberry plants too soon may cause rot.

In the spring when I peek in and see new yellow leaves, I will take off the mulch. Hopefully, I can then sit the pots on my new strawberry wall. What is a strawberry wall you might ask? Well, it is a garden/yard area we have in the planning stage right now for a level stone platform with a wind break wall. The platform is for a BBQ spot and also a built-in rocket stove to boil down our maple sap.

On our hillside, up from the bay we need a windbreak to be able to enjoy that spot. On the top and back side of that partial wall, will be ledges to sit my strawberry pots. Shawn learned to tie nets a few winters ago and along with those we use for tree/shrub protection and garden supports, he made a very large one for the future strawberry patch. I can’t wait to share pictures of this area, once it’s started in the spring.

So a few things to fit in the schedule for the month. Never seems to be trouble making time to do things outside in the garden. I enjoy it, so it doesn’t seem like work. Another thing I've just thought to add while I'm out there. - Use my pumpkins and make some fall decoration for the door step. Happy October Everyone! It's one of my favorite months, not only because of the autumn colors and good garden working weather but because Shawn's birthday starts it off!