A GARDENER’S DIARY: Warm fall days are a bonus for gardeners

Jocelyne Sewell offers some tips for cleaning up the garden so it's ready to go for next spring

All the nice days in October, I think of them as bonuses. Most of the time, I still don’t manage to get everything done. This is a good time to divide perennials that have become too big and are invading their neighbour’s space. Some of them will be blooming less and like some of my grasses, they have a dead space in the centre of the plant. By doing this work now, you will have nicer plants come spring. Sometimes, the good weather carries on till November.

This is the time to plant your spring bulbs and garlic. Bulbs love to have bone meal incorporated into the soil at planting time. I dig my holes, put bone meal, mix with soil in the bottom, cover with a bit of compost, and plant. Deer love tulips but will leave daffodils alone and small bulbs like grape hyacinths and snowdrops. I have these on the front bank and they never touch them. Other plants they never ate in my garden are the irises, red valerian and California poppies.

This is also a good time to plant shrubs and trees. The air temperature might get cooler but the soil keeps its warmth for a while. Make sure you water them well until the ground freezes. I always wait for the killing frost to clean the garden but I was reading that October is a good month to prune back the plants that will be killed soon, like peonies. I like to keep them as long as I can as they turn to lovely shades of yellow, orange and red and remind me of the beautiful colours of leaves from the east.

Some plants can be left until spring as they look nice in winter and will help to feed the little birds from the seed heads. I like to see the ornamental grasses with a dusting of snow.

I will start to pick up the leaves in the garden. I like to use them as mulch after they have been shredded with the lawnmower. Some maple leaves left whole will just mat down and could cause problems with some of the plants. You can also use leaves in your compost except walnut leaves. These should be discarded when the city picks up leaves in the fall.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture website, “black walnut and butternut produce the largest quantity of juglone and can cause toxic reactions with a number of other plant species that grow in their vicinity. Other juglone-producing species are English walnut, pecan, shellbark/shagbark/bitternut hickory.” I have been composting and using the leaves from our horse chestnut trees without any trouble. The stems of these leaves are so big, they do not break easy and I discard them when I can.

By the time you have your garden done, there is one more important thing to do: clean up all the tools and oil them. If left wet, some of them will rust. The only thing will be to look at garden books and dream of spring. Have a good fall season.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca