Although we had a bit of frost last week, 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 center of the plant. By doing this work now, you will have nicer plants come spring. Plants that bloom early in the spring, you can divide now. If they are blooming later in the summer, you can divide them in the spring. If we are lucky, some good weather might carry on till November.
This is the time to plant your spring bulbs and garlic. I am planting mine this week. 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. The red valerian and the California poppies are still blooming. Some little frost doesn’t hurt them. I like the red and bright orange shades.
This is 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 good 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 am trimming the irises now as the old leaves don’t look nice and turn brown. I don’t compost the leaves. “It usually takes several weeks for iris leaves to completely die back. By early fall, the leaves are usually ready to be cut back, according to the Utah State University Cooperative Extension. Leaves should be cut back to about 6 to 8 inches above the ground. Then, wait until after the first hard frost. This will kill off the remaining foliage, at which point you can remove it to the ground. If you can’t stand the look of yellowing foliage, you can trim it a little at a time as it turns yellow, or fold the leaves back so that the yellow parts are hidden from view.”
I will start picking up the leaves for 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 some problems with some of the plants. You can always use leaves in your compost except walnut leaves. These should be discarded when the city picks up the 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.
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, I know as I forget this last step quite often. Also some will need sharpening. All of them should be put away in a dry place. The only thing will be to look at garden books and dream of spring.
— A Gardener’s Diary by Jocelyne Sewell October 2019 #167