October is the traditional month for welcoming fall with festivals at garden centers, for visiting pick-it-yourself pumpkin patches, and taking foliage tours through the River Valley and the Ozarks. It is also time for the Pollinator Arts & Crafts Festival—an opportunity to learn about pollinators, select plants and perhaps even see monarch butterflies on their journey southward—on Oct. 6 at the Learning Fields at Chaffee Crossing.
If you are interested in joining the Master Gardener program here, a new training class is scheduled for February and we are taking applications. Contact the Sebastian County Extension Office for an application. The River Valley covers Sebastian and Crawford counties as well as nearby counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
As we transition from one growing season to the next, there is also plenty of work to do in the garden. From raking to planting, from harvesting to clean-up, here’s a list of “to do” tips for this month:
—In the garden plant a cover crop, such as wheat, rye, alfalfa or crimson clover. Cover crops are mother nature’s soil rejuvenators. They break up heavy clay soil, discourage weeds, impede erosion, trap nutrients, fix nitrogen in the soil, attract beneficial insects, support subterranean microbial life and provide green manure.
—Planting trees and shrubs in the fall is ideal. Our ground temperature is still warm, so roots will begin to get established quickly. Our soil rarely freezes solid, so the plants will continue to produce roots, even though the tops aren’t growing.
—Sprinkle seeds of cool weather annuals such as larkspur, poppies and Queen Anne’s lace directly into the garden now for colorful flowers next spring. Barely cover up the seeds with soil and do not mulch. —Even though the weather is cooler this month, don’t forget to water an inch of water per week if rainfall doesn’t occur. It is especially important around trees and shrubs planted this year. Avoid severely pruning shrubs now because this will encourage rapid regrowth, and the new growth won’t have time to harden off before cold weather arrives. —Do NOT compost or leave any diseased plants or plant parts in the garden. —Continue to set out spring blooming bulbs: daffodils, Dutch iris, freesia, anemone, ranunculus, hyacinth, Spanish bluebells, crocus and tulips Select healthy, disease-free bulbs. Add bone meal or bulb fertilizer into the planting hole, as you prepare the soil. Plant them three times deeper than the height of the bulb. —Clean up around your perennial plants. Any leaves that have fallen can harbor insects and diseases for next year. Scatter dry seed heads or store the seeds for later use. Cut back any plants that have lost most of their leaves or that look bad now. —As fall colors begin to appear, make a note of plants displaying outstanding fall colors as you drive along city streets and the surrounding countryside. You may wish to incorporate some of them into your own landscape next year. —Clean up your emptied pots with a 10 percent bleach solution to get rid of any plant pathogens. —Empty excess water out of hoses before storing. Water expands as it freezes and can burst hoses.
–Jayson McGaugh is the Sebastian County Cooperative Extension agent. Have questions about lawn, garden or other horticulture related issues? The Sebastian County Extension Service can help. The office is located at 6700 Mahogany Ave., Barling. Call (479) 484-7737 for answers to horticulture questions.