Gardening · Homesteading · Urban Homesteading

October Garden Tasks

Garden Tasks for Zones 7-8 In The PNW

October is a pivotal month in the gardens for me. In zones 7 and 8 in the Pacific Northwest, we still get warm days in October, but the nights are cool. So while it might hit into the mid 60’s on some days, it’s only that warm for a few hours, often between 11 am and 4 pm. The sun rises far later and dips quickly in October, as the amount of daylight decreases quickly. We start with less than 11 hours and 45 minutes, and will end in the 10 hour range. With this loss of daylight, plants start shutting down quickly. We have already dipped down to 49° at night though overall we are still in the low 50’s in general.

The milder days are some of my favorite ones, to be in the garden working, cleaning up for the year, but also putting in next year’s ideas. This is the perfect month for garden tasks, where you can get a lot of work done, and sweat less. And it isn’t dark at 5 pm! Just dark by…oh….6:30. But hey, every minute counts, no?

Often by early October we have had some good fall rains where the earth gets well soaked. Depending on where you live, the burn bans may have been lifted, so if you have a pile of broken tree limbs and noxious weeds and such, you can finally burn it. And having sat there for months, it’s bone dry and will go quickly. The ashes can be added to your compost pile (once cool for a couple of days) or added into a field and worked in. Nothing gets wasted.

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  • Expect molting to happen if it hasn’t already started.
  • Expect a lot less eggs many days (if you don’t add supplemental lighting, which I do not). Chickens need a rest as well.
  • Clean their coops and runs, and start laying the wood chips a bit thicker for the coming cool weather.
  • We let our chickens out of their run when we are working so they can get time on dry ground (as in grassy areas). Often the fall rains lead to a mud pit in the coop. Sunny days help it, as does buying or chipping wood chips (the durable kind) to lay in walk areas in their runs to control mud.
  • Toss your chickens as many scraps from the dying back garden to get variety in their diets.
  • Stock up a couple bags of feed to have on hand in case of bad weather, so you don’t run out.

Garden & Greenhouse Tasks:

  • Make sure to bring in delicate citrus trees if you haven’t. We keep ours in the greenhouse. Also bring in pepper plants that are still producing, if in pots.
  • Clean your beds of dead or dying back plants.
  • As bean and pea plants die back, cut the plants to the ground, leave the roots in, to help with nitrogen. You can blend this in in spring.
  • At the start of the month, it will be time to pull most of the tomato plants, as they will be done and you might have tomato blight to deal with.
  • Place a clean board or brick under pumpkins, to keep them off the soil, as they finish ripening. (If they haven’t been harvested yet)
  • Cut back leaves over pumpkins and winter squash, to let in light. (If they have not been harvested yet)
  • Plant cold friendly annuals for a pop of color in fall. Nurseries will have plenty right now, and they often bloom into November and December. They will often come back in Spring, unless we have a very harsh winter.
  • Start prepping your garlic and fall onion beds. Amend the soil as desired and mark the spots. Don’t plant till end of the month, but working the soil now is easiest.
  • Buy garlic and onion to plant, if needed. (Plant time is end of October thru mid November here)
  • Trim back herbs, and save to dry. Do this in the early morning and stash in new brown paper bags to air dry slowly. Mark each bag with what is inside. Once dry, store in mason jars out of direct sunlight.
  • Do a fall fertilizing of blueberry bushes and trees, water well after, if you didn’t in September.
  • If building new beds for next year (the cooler weather makes it a nice time!) lay down a lot of cardboard to help smother weeds. Place rocks or bricks on top to weight down from winds.
  • Clean out your garden shed (If you have one).
  • Sharpen tools and clean them for winter storage.
  • Clean your greenhouse (if you have one), removing dead plants and giving it a good sweeping out.
  • Take any leftover soil mix (if you have any) and fill 4″ pots with it, to be ready for next spring. I store them in our greenhouse. This way the soil doesn’t get water logged outside.
  • Wash and dry empty pots, stack for fall storage, out-of-the-way, so fall storms don’t blow them away.
  • Water and turn your compost piles/bins.
  • Should you find any deals on berry or fruit trees, get them in the ground in the next few weeks.
  • Avoid any desire to prune trees. Wait till it is winter! Trees and bushes are starting to go into being dormant, and need their rest.

Garlic ready to plant (or mostly ready).