Pansies are a good choice for fall and winter color in the garden. If you want to plant pansies you need to do it very soon to assure that their roots get established for winter. As a bonus, pansies often overwinter and provide early spring beauty.
- Spring flowering bulbs can still be planted. For best results, place them in a sunny spot in well-drained soil amended with compost. Fertilize the planting area with a balanced fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Bulbs can be protected from animal pests by surrounding them with a wire mesh like chicken wire. If deer or other wildlife have ravaged your past bulb plantings, try planting bulbs that are rarely damaged by deer, such as allium, narcissus, fritillaria, hyacinth, and scilla.
This is a good time to incorporate organic matter into your garden beds. Composted animal manure (horse, cow, sheep, chicken) is excellent for improving garden soil. Keep garden beds covered with shredded leaves to minimize the risk of soil erosion and nutrient run-off. These can be tilled into the garden in spring or left in place as a mulch between rows of vegetables.
- Cover crops should be planted before Oct. 15 but increased soil and air temperatures, due to global warming, may allow early November sowing of winter wheat or winter rye.
- Spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, and other cool-season crops should be protected from freezing with a cold frame, plastic sheeting, or floating row cover. Be sure to vent your cold frame or plastic cover on sunny days to prevent excessive heat build-up.
- You may notice large, brown humpbacked crickets with long antennae that don’t chirp. These are camel or cave crickets (photo on right) and are attracted to damp, dark locations in the home, usually in the basement, the garage, or garden shed. Exclude them as you would other nuisance pests by sealing up openings around foundations, doors, and windows.
- Stink bugs, ladybird beetles, boxelder bugs, house flies, elm leaf beetles, and a few other critters may be observed in large numbers congregating inside your home. Cooler fall temperatures are driving them indoors. The ladybird beetles are actually beneficial insects that will not breed or survive for very long indoors. Simply vacuum or sweep up any unwelcome guests. The stinkbugs and the other invaders will do no harm indoors except to be a nuisance. Escort these invaders out of your home or vacuum them up, but resist the impulse to spray an insecticide. You can also prevent pests from coming into the house by caulking openings around window and door frames and not storing firewood inside the house.
The Home & Garden Information Center’s horticulturists are available year-round to answer your plant and pest questions. In addition to gardening questions, we cover houseplants, indoor pests, and more. Send your questions and photos to Ask an Expert!