By: Pat Cordray
October, the month that we pay for all summer with the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes, is here. Sometimes we get a week or two of incredible weather and then right back to summer. But, I’ll happily take any relief from our summer weather that I can get.
The gardening in October is at the top of the list, we are free of the oppression of the heat and humidity, what a joy. This is a busy gardening month; from planting bulbs, to planting beautiful bedding plants and seeds, to planting trees. Now that is a list!
Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs are some of the easiest plants to grow in the garden. How is that? When planted in a raised bed or container that has drainage, full sun (part sun in summer, under a deciduous tree would be perfect), and water, it is going to bloom. The bulb spent the last year getting everything it needs to bloom this year. So plant them and they will bloom in amazing colors. Toward the end of this month and through November plant Dutch Iris, ranunculus, calla lilies, Leucojum, Lycoris, and daffodils. Tulips and hyacinths will need to be refrigerated 4-6 weeks before planting. Hyacinths need to be planted from mid-November through early December. Tulips will need to be planted mid-December through early January. Plan ahead if you want to grow tulips and hyacinths, it is a good thing that we store these bulbs in the fridge so they will be ready for you to plant. Keep tulips and hyacinths at about 45 degrees and make sure you open the fridge a couple times a day.
And now for more bulb news, are you ready? Okay, then here you go. Amaryllis bulbs will be here in October, our first shipment will arrive about mid-month and the second shipment should happen about a week after that. Amaryllis bulbs are so beautiful and can be grown in your home and/or out in the garden. I usually force my amaryllis bulbs indoors and move them to the garden when the blooms are spent. They are perennial here, so think of this, gorgeous blooms year after year with very little help from you, what could be better than that for the garden?
To force amaryllis inside you don’t even have to use soil, but you can. Fill container with soil and add bulbs. The bulbs should be planted to the “shoulder” of the bulb and shouldn’t touch each other. Once the stem starts to grow, turn the pot daily so the stem grows straight. The blooms are heavy; they may need to be staked. When the blooms are spent, cut them off leaving the leaves intact. Plant the bulbs in a raised bed in the garden. The soil level should be to the “neck” of the bulb. Start bulbs every 2 weeks for fresh flowers in your home all season.
What about for your outside containers and your garden? Plant bulbs and add fall and winter color plants on top, for instant color now, then the bulbs will grow through the bedding plants for even more color later. What color plants to grow this time of year? You can grow dianthus, sweet alyssum, ornamental kale & cabbage, snow princess lobularia, lobelia, calendulas, snapdragons, marigolds, nasturtiums, calibrichoa, forget-me-knots, celosia, petunias, stock, verbena, diascia, phlox, violas, sweet peas and hollyhocks. Leave room for pansies and cyclamen, they like it a little cooler outside.
Do you want to grow from seed? October is the time to get those seeds in the ground for the early spring color. Before you plant your seeds, check the package to see if there are any special instructions for the seeds you picked. Examine the seeds to make sure they are not broken. Broken seeds will not germinate. I usually soak all of my seeds overnight in tepid water to help the germination process along. I plant mine in raised beds or containers with organic soil topped with worm castings. The worm castings will give the young plants the boost they need without burning. Gently water your new seed plantings to keep them moist, too much pressure will wash your seeds from where you planted them. Seeds are great way to add loads of color and variety to your garden.
October is a great tree planting month! Pick the tree that will best fit your needs and yard when it is full- grown. You wouldn’t want to plant 2 live oaks in a small yard. For a small yard consider crape myrtles, Mexican olives, Mexican plums, redbuds or even shantung maples. There is also the Slender Silhouette Sweetgum. This sweetgum is a columnar tree growing up to 50 feet tall but only 4 feet wide. This is a great sweetgum for fall color and no need to worry about the seed balls, the Slender Silhouette doesn’t produce very many and because of the shape of the tree they fall in a smaller area. We have many trees to pick from, here at The Nursery. Fruit trees, flowering trees, shade trees and even specialty trees like Japanese maples. Most trees do not like standing water so don’t plant them where water stands after a rain. Get your tree in the ground and remember to not plant deep. We have a complete planting guide to help you with the planting. The number one thing is to water. Water a newly planted tree where the roots are, around the base of the trunk; it can take a couple of years for the roots to become established.
We can have so much fun playing in the dirt this month, yay!