Monthly Tips for October

mumsOrnamental Plants

  • Mums that are planted this late should be treated as an annual. They will not become established over the winter. Fall-planted asters, however, will become established. Ornamental kale and cabbage produce a nice show of foliage but usually decline by February. Pansies are a good choice for fall and winter color in the garden. This is a good time to save the seed from annual flowering plants like cleome, zinnias, cosmos, celosia, and butterfly weed.
  • Now is the recommended time to divide and replant overcrowded perennials. Most are easily divided but a few such as Baby’s Breath, Gas Plant, Butterfly Weed, and Lenten Rose do not tolerate being divided. (See our publication on Dividing Herbaceous Perennials.)
  • Leave the flower heads on sunflowers, coneflowers, coreopsis, and black-eyed Susan to provide winter food for birds.


  • Be sure to discard badly-diseased plants and fruits; don’t till them back into the soil. All other plant waste can be composted or directly incorporated into your garden soil.
  • Carrots can be over-wintered in the garden by covering the bed with a deep straw or leaf mulch. Pull carrots through the winter as needed.
  • Lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale can be planted through the middle of the month. Cover these late plantings with a cold frame, temporary greenhouse or floating row cover. Be sure to fertilize seedbeds, keep the soil moist and protect seedlings from pests. The young plants will go dormant and re-grow in Spring.

Eastern gray squirrel. Photo from USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS,


  • Where voles are a problem try using mouse snap traps baited with apples. Fall is a good time to trap. Voles accept the bait readily after the first hard frost when desirable foods are less plentiful. Reduce populations before the winter when woody plant damage is greatest. See our publication on Reducing Vole Damage to Plants in Landscapes, Orchards, and Nurseries.
  • Where deer are feeding on garden and landscape plants, you may need to use several approaches for control. Apply repellents such as “Liquid Fence”, ”Deer-Away”, “Deer-Off”, “Hinder” or “Ro-Pel” to vulnerable plants. If deer pressure is heavy, try rotating repellents. Small deodorant soap bars have been used with some success. Grow plants seldom damaged by deer and consider fencing options. See our publication on Resistance of Woody Ornamentals to Deer Damage.
  • Squirrels are busy gathering nuts of oaks, hickories, and beech for the winter. They eat what they need and store the rest. Gray squirrels bury nuts at many locations. They find their nuts by sense of smell and memory and may end up eating nuts buried by other squirrels.

More tips from the Home & Garden Information Center

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