University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article

CLEANING BIRD FEEDERS AND OTHER OCTOBER
GARDENING TIPS

Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Cleaning bird feeders, planting garlic, and mulching bulbs are some of the garden tips for this month.

Plant garlic now for harvesting next summer. Purchase garlic sold specifically for planting, or buy organic garlic. Commercial, non-organic, supermarket garlic may have been treated to inhibit sprouting. Break the garlic head into individual cloves, keeping the largest ones for planting. (Use the small cloves for cooking.) Plant cloves about 3 inches apart with the pointy side up. Try some different varieties to see which you prefer. Mulch the bed well with straw.

If you have drip irrigation tubes outside, blow or drain the water out and bring them into a sheltered area. Any water left in them over the winter will freeze and possibly damage the tubes. Once you've finished with fall planting, drain garden hoses and bring them into a garage or shed.

If you have a shrub or small tree you'd like to relocate next spring, now is the time to prepare its root system. With a long-handled spade, dig a circle around the root ball, slicing through the roots. This will encourage new roots to develop inside the circle so the plant will have a more compact root system when you dig it up next year.  This process, called “root pruning,” will result in less transplant shock.

Spread a thin topping of compost on the lawn after you rake up leaves, and rake again to settle the compost. If some areas aren't growing well, it might help to core aerate before spreading compost. If you do this in spring and fall, you can gradually rejuvenate a tired lawn.

After you plant bulbs, spread mulch on top to help keep the soil warmer longer to allow for more root growth this fall. Roots will continue to grow until the soil temperature drops below about 40 degrees F.

Before winter bird feeding begins, clean your feeders with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Scrub with a brush and rinse thoroughly.

Other ideas for this month include testing your soil, planting peonies or dividing and replanting, keeping leaves raked off lawns, and digging tender bulbs such as dahlias and gladiolus.   Visit the National Gardening Association’s web site (www.garden.org) for more information on gardening and regional reports.


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