9 Critical Tasks in the October Garden

26 September 2018  
October is garden to-do time.

Feed the yard and prevent bugs. Weed killing as the weather cools. Pinyon Pine Scale and bark beetle issues. Winter garden flowers. Preparing for a better spring garden.

It’s time to start checking off items from that fall gardening to-do list. These are things I do every fall; my aim is to complete all of them by the end of October. Today’s column lists these very easy, but significant, tasks in order of importance.

1 ~ The most critical job of fall is also the easiest: feeding everything in the landscape. The entire yard and garden should be fed within the next few weeks. I get the best results from my specially created organic “All Purpose Plant Food”. It makes a huge difference in my garden because it helps plants survive harsh winter weather and promotes better spring growth. A must for spring-blooming plants from lilacs to forsythias, I also apply it to my native plants for better color through the winter.

2 ~This is the time to treat pinyon pines for scale. Each tree gets treated with liquid “Plant Protector”, and it doesn't take an arborist to apply this bug killer. Mix it in a 2-gallon watering can and apply it to the base of each plant; the roots will do the rest. I think of it as an antibiotic for trees. Reapply in March and you will have the best-looking pest-free pines in the neighborhood.

3 ~ Change from Round-Up-type weed killers, which are completely ineffective in cold weather, to a cool season weed killer like “Weed Beater Ultra”. I never waste my time and money using inappropriate products that deliver ineffective results.

4 ~ Watch for large aphids. If the leaves and rocks at the bases of trees are glistening like a morning’s dew, aphids have begun their assault. Get on them right away by hosing down these pests with “Sticker Spreader” and “Multi-Purpose Insect Spray”. It will eliminate aphids from any landscape.

5 ~ A layer of household insulation should be laid over irrigation valves, under the valve lid. For those of you that followed last year’s garden column advice this bit possibly saved you from a plumber’s bill. In addition to this insurance policy against winter damage of my irrigation system, I buy next spring’s mulch, manure, and shredded bark because the full bags make excellent insulation! They are perfect to use as hearty protection over the valve box lid, around the well house, around the backflow preventer. I use several bags to insulate my hot tub, which keeps down our heating bills. My garden will need these products next spring anyway, so why not get double duty out of those bags of soil amendments?

6 ~ Replace summer flowers and vegetables with winter varieties: pansies, kales, violas, broccoli, cabbages, lettuces, and cauliflowers. Bring planted containers close to the house because they benefit from the building’s residual heat absorbed from the sun and a seemingly insignificant bit of shelter from the elements. As perennials turn brown, cut them back.

7 ~ It’s important to change the irrigation clock because to reduce freeze damage it’s better to water the lawn during the day. My clock is set to water the lawn once a week at 10:00 a.m. After Halloween I turn off the automatic irrigation and operate it manually on warm winter days. This prevents freeze damage on my plants and to the irrigation system. November through March I water my trees and shrubs twice a month.

8 ~ If your lawn looks heat-stressed or doggie-damaged, it’s best to de-thatch before adding that one last feeding of ‘All Purpose Plant Food’.

Two weeks after applying plant food add a granular supplement called “Soil Activator” by Natural Guard. It encourages growth in bare patches and keeps the lawn an intense green longer into winter.

9 ~ If you have a rock lawn apply “Weed & Grass Preventer”. Winter weeds like fox tails and dandelions will emerge after the next few storms and become a serious problem just after the holidays. “Weed & Grass Preventer” prevents any weeds from coming back by seed. This is especially important if you missed this summer’s monsoon application.

Bonus garden tip - Make sure the well house is adequately insulated. Before Thanksgiving seal cracks and doors and make sure the heat lamp is working or reconnect the heat tape.

That’s my list. Make up your list using any of these steps that will improve your lawn and/or garden. With these minimal maintenance tasks, you’ll find your winter-blooming flowers brighter, the evergreens greener, and your spring growth more exciting than ever. If you have questions about any of the listed items please stop by the garden center where my staff and I will be glad to help you.

Tune In - This week I’ll be covering the fall tasks needed in Arizona’s mountain gardens on my radio show, "The Mountain Gardener". You are invited to tune in every Saturday at KQNA 1130 AM or 99.9 FM from 11:00 a.m. to noon. It’s an hour of enlightening and entertaining gardening talk.

Plant of the Week is the Regal Petticoat Maple. This spectacular shade tree is new to Arizona. The leaves have deep green topsides with even deeper purple velvety undersides. The autumn colors are the real signature of this new introduction. Its fall leaves turn aspen yellow on top and bright magenta pink on the underside, accented with shades of red, orange, and salmon. This mineral tolerant specimen matures into a beautiful tree of superior disease resistance. There is no mess because this beauty produces no flowers or seeds on its 35-foot high vase-shaped form. This is the perfect shade tree for urban and commercial settings where our clay soils are an issue. Good size trees are under $99, and we just received some huge specimens. All are ready for fall planting.

Free Gardening Class – Fall gardening classes have begun. If you can't make it to the garden center for our classes, keep in mind that we 'Live Broadcast' each Saturday morning class at 9:30am on Watters Facebook Page.

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Gardening Classes


Sept 29 – Planting for Success in our Mountain Soil

We've planted thousands of plants throughout northern Arizona, and now we're going to share our secrets with YOU. Watters' Planting Manager, Ella Amos, gets her hands dirty every day planting new landscapes for our wonderful customers. Years of planting success and the knowledge she's gained through her experience make Ella the perfect Guest Instructor for this class. She'll share the techniques and trade secrets she's learned to help you be a smarter, savvier, more successful gardener.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

October 6 – Irrigation in the Waterwise Landscape

Irrigation systems can confound even the most experienced gardeners! Learn the benefits of drip irrigation, the best emitters and parts, and how to set a system up or add to it. With the right system, you can save water and have healthier plants at the same time. Students will also learn which plants are considered “waterwise,” and how to grow a beautiful landscape while saving our most precious resource – water!

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

Oct 13 – Top Trees for Fall and All

Privacy, shade, color, evergreen, and blooms – trees are the foundation of the landscape! With so many choices, picking the perfect tree can seem overwhelming, but not after this class. Students will learn which trees are best for their garden wish list, and which can provide stunning, year-round interest when planted together. Our horticultural team will be on-hand after the class to help with individual tree situations.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

Oct 20 – Container Designs – Easy as 1-2-3

The fall plants have arrived, and this is the month to transition from summer blooming flowers to winter hardy pansy, viola, mums, kale, dusty miller and more. Expect inspirational color from your container gardens right through the holiday season to come. Students learn the best soils, foods and flowers that keep on blooming. Bring your empty containers and experts will be on hand after the class to help personalize your style.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

Oct 27 – Winter Wellness – How to Keep Plants Healthy in Winter

Which plants need to be brought inside for winter? What's the best way to keep them healthy when they're brought inside? How do I protect the plants in my garden from frost? Do I have to water in winter? We'll answer all these questions and more in this winter preparedness class. Learn the best practices for helping your plants through the chilly winter months so they can be at their best in Spring.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.

Nov 3 – Fall ‘To-do‘ list for a Healthy Yard

Get the most out of your landscape with this easy to use checklist of fall care. Bring the color out of your fall gardens, reduce bugs next spring, or simply put your landscape to bed with these easy to use ideas.

If you can't attend this class, watch the Livestream on Facebook. Like our Page to be notified when we go Live.



Ken Lain, the Mountain Gardener

Ken Lain is attracted to sunshine, beauty, happiness, success and health through gardening, and wishes to point the way to others. Throughout the week Ken can be found at Watters Garden Center located at 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd, Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com

Website: www.wattersgardencenter.com