Tiny Shovel And Flower Bulbs On Soil
(Image credit: onepony)

Winter’s chill is in the air in October but it’s not quite time to put your feet up in front of a roaring fire just yet. Gardening tasks are still in full swing for Northeast gardeners.

What October gardening tasks need to be accomplished? The following regional to-do list for Northeast gardeners will have you prepping the garden for winter and the following spring.

Northeast Gardening in October

In the Northeast, the first expected frost date is rapidly approaching so there’s no time to waste accomplishing October gardening tasks. Some items on your regional to-do list will involve putting the veggie garden to bed, brightening up the landscape for spring, working on the lawn, and generally tidying up before ‘Old Man Winter’ arrives.

Regional To-Do List for Northeast Gardeners

While there’s a lot to accomplish on your to-do list, there are actually a few things you can slack off on, watering being one. There may be more precipitation already so less need to water. That said, don’t stop watering completely. Everything that is still growing needs irrigation. On the subject of irrigation, with freezing temperatures in the near future, it’s a good idea to do or schedule a sprinkler system blow out.

Don’t prune anymore. Pruning sends a signal to the plant that it is time to grow and winter is too close so that’s a no/no. The exception is pruning any dead or damaged branches. Some perennials will be cut back in the spring. However, these should all be cut back in the fall:

Depending upon the weather, lawn mowing may slack off. With all that extra time, if you haven’t done so already, core aerate the lawn to improve drainage. Wait until November 15th to feed the lawn.

Additional October Gardening Tasks

In the veggie garden, dig up spuds and cure them in a cool, dark room. Leave any carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and parsnips in the ground and harvest as needed through the winter. Cover them with straw to protect them from frost.

Another October gardening task has to do with bulbs. October is the time to dig up tender summer bulbs or tubers like canna, begonia, and dahlias. Cut the dahlias back first and wait a week before digging them up. Another bulb task is planting spring bulbs.

Plant trees and shrubs in October. This will give them time to settle in before the long winter months. Mulch and water new plants well. Transplant trees and shrubs after they have lost their leaves.

Clean the garden of dead and dying plants, blooms, etc. and add to the compost pile. Work plenty of compost into your veggie and perennial beds. Cover susceptible, newly planted evergreens from drying winds with burlap bags.

Lastly, if you haven’t done so already, take a soil test. If the test indicates you need to amend with lime, now is the time to do so since it takes three to six months for it to work its magic. Once you have checked off all your October gardening tasks, take some time to enjoy the beauty of the season.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.