The month of October is a when putting the garden to bed begins.
With such wet winters in our climate, it is best to cut back and collect the yellow and rotting foliage from perennials such as hostas, squash, beans and other plants that could harbor slugs and snails over the winter. If you used a drip system to water plants, this is a good week to check the emitters by turning on the water one last time and checking to see that the water still flows freely. Remove and clean any of the end nozzles that are blocked from mineral buildups.
Q. I have heard that fallen leaves are good for the soil. May I leave the leaves from my maple tree on my beds and lawn until spring to enrich the soil? — P., Tacoma
A. No. Maple leaves will decompose and improve the soil, but if left on the lawn over the winter, the grass will smother and die only to be filled with weeds in the spring.
You can leave fallen leaves around mature trees and shrubs, but their dampness may be a bit much on top of perennial plants such as mums, iris, day lilies and members of the sedum family.
A more practical solution is to bag up fallen leaves or pile them together and let them rot over the winter. In spring you can layer the resulting leaf mold on top of the soil or dig them into your beds.
Q. Is it too late to move some overgrown evergreens in my landscape? I have a dwarf Alberta spruce about four feet tall and a low growing juniper that I want to give to my daughter for her new landscape. — J.K., Buckley
A. Dig in and share your shrubs now as October is a fine time to transplant evergreen and many deciduous or leaf dropping trees and shrubs. Dig up as much of the root ball as possible by digging a circle around the shrub, uprooting the plant and then rolling the entire plant onto an old tarp or shower curtain.
Transport the plant with the roots covered and wrapped so they don’t dry out. Transplant into a new hole that is twice as wide as the root ball and position so that the shrub is growing at the same depth that it was before.
Q. My Shasta daisies no longer bloom much and I suspect I need to divide them as they have been in the same location for many years. My questions are first, what time of year, and second how many new plants should I make from my old clump of daisies? — R.T., Kent
A. First, you can dig up and divide perennials in early spring or fall so this is a great month to do the dirty deed. Second, you can decide if you want many small clumps to spread around the garden or just a few larger clumps that will need dividing again in a few years. A general rule of green thumb is that a clump of perennials (day lilies, hostas, daisies) that is one foot wide can be chopped into four sections. The very center of the perennial clump will be the oldest part and this is often tossed out in favor of the younger outer growth.