Here’s a list of October garden tasks for the Texas Coastal Bend area from the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardeners.
– Prepare for winter: be sure your flower and vegetable beds are well-mulched to protect roots from near-freezing temperatures coming up in a couple months.
– Remove dead leaves from your lawn and use them as mulch or compost them, or just run over them with a mulching mower. In rainy weather, whole leaves that sit on top of your turf can promote fungal diseases.
– If you wish, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to control winter weeds, but never use a “weed and feed” product—it causes stress and death to trees and landscape plants.
– It’s just about time to fertilize your lawn with a “winterizer,” and the date for our area is November 1. Get fertilizer that’s in a slow-release form to help with cool-weather root development while not stimulating a flush of new growth that will be damaged by the cold. You can use 24-3-14 commercial fertilizer, or spread a thin layer of compost–about one-third inch.
– You can plant almost anything this month, except for tropicals. Avoid planting tropicals such as hibiscus, palms, etc., which will not tolerate the coming cold weather when newly planted.
– It’s a good time for planting shrubs, trees, roses, cool-season vegetables, herbs, and wildflowers (bluebonnets should have been sown in August, though).
– It’s too late to heavily prune trees and most shrubs this month. Since our weather is still warm, they will put on new growth, which could be damaged by the first cold weather.
– In October you can fertilize roses lightly.
– It’s not too late to feed outdoor plants in containers.
– Try not to water too much. With less sun and more rain this month, extra water from irrigation can create a favorable environment for fungal diseases like brown patch, black spot, and more.
– Plant cool season vegetables including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, beets, turnips, radishes, kohlrabi, mustards, and collards.
– Onion seed can be sown on October 1, but wait until November to put in onion sets.
– If you have okra growing, you can continue to harvest it until the first frost.
– Chard can be carried through the fall for continued harvest, also.
– October is a great time to plant herbs. Chives, oregano, basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, sage, thyme, and rosemary grow well here. They need a sunny, well-drained spot to grow, and you might have to water them during dry spells.
– This is the best month to plant wildflowers, with the exception of bluebonnets. Choose a sunny, well-drained area, rake the soil surface a little, sprinkle on the seeds, and water in. Don’t put your seeds out too thickly. They need room to grow. Then keep the seeded area moist for a week or two.
– As the nights cool off, brown patch can appear in St. Augustine grass. It looks like a round spot of dead grass that increases in size and then starts greening up again in the middle. It won’t kill the grass roots—only the top part above ground, and it will go away during the winter. Brown patch is a fungus that’s caused by too much moisture, especially in low areas. To prevent the problem next year, fill in the low spots over the winter with compost or loose soil.
– Near the end of October, citrus fruits start to show a little color, but it’s best to leave them on the trees to sweeten up in the colder weather. Remember to pick all your ripe citrus fruits ahead of time when the first freeze is predicted.
– Protect citrus roots from cold weather by tucking them in with a heavy layer of mulch (up to 6 inches), or by clearing the ground underneath the tree so the bare soil can radiate heat upwards.
– This is an excellent month to plant container-grown roses. Select a site with fertile, well-drained soil, good air movement, and at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. Try the Texas Superstar roses, which are particularly hardy, beautiful, and easy to grow: Marie Daly, Belinda’s Dream, Knock Out, and Grandma’s Yellow Rose.
– Treat leaf cutter and fire ants with Grant’s or Amdro baits that are specifically labeled for each type of ant. Treat the fire ant mounds that you find, and on a dry day broadcast your fire ant bait over the whole yard. This usually results in a 90-95% reduction in fire ants over the winter. Use bait products only as directed on the label, and follow instructions carefully.