Your October Gardening To-Do List

by | Oct 8, 2019

October is full of G’s—from ghosts to ghouls to gourds. But there’s also another G that needs taking care of this time of year: gardening.

The month of October is an important time for many things in our gardens, which means there’s quite a bit to get done to keep it in top form. Here’s what to check off your to-do list this month:

1. Plant Garlic & Winter Colour

Now’s your last chance to plant garlic if you’re hoping for a harvest next July. Plant in a raised bed, with sandy soil and plenty of sun. For successful performance in the Fraser Valley, we recommend Russian or Elephant garlic. Plant at a depth of 3-4 times the width of the clove, and about 4-5” (10-12 cm) apart.

For colour in late December and January, you should also plant snowdrops and yellow winter aconites as soon as possible. They look their best when planted in and around shrubs and evergreen perennials, like colourful heucheras, dwarf conifers, euphorbias, Japanese azaleas and sedums, like golden ‘Angelina’.

2. Prep Your Lawn for Winter

While the ground is still soft, aerate your lawn and apply ¼” of washed sand (rake it in). To tone up your lawn, keep it green and help it bounce back quickly in spring, apply a controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer like 32-0-10.

To keep our soil from becoming too acidic over the winter, October is also the best time to apply Dolopril or organic eggshell lime to our lawns. Should you be feeding, apply the fertilizer now, then wait three weeks to apply the lime. If you’re not feeding, liming can be done now. Do not apply both products at the same time.

3. Fill In Your Vegetable Garden

Fill in empty patches in vegetable gardens with either fall rye or Rejuvenation Mix, which will actually fix the soil’s nitrogen levels as it grows! These are fantastic, organic ways to improve soil quality for next year. Simply turn it all over into itself in spring, and you’re off to a great start for the season ahead. They needed to be planted quickly, however, as night temperatures are steadily dropping.

4. Trim & Wrap Roses

Tidy up your roses for winter with a simple, light pruning (no more than 2-3 feet) and clean up any dead or weak wood. Retrain climbers on arbours and trellises, and cut them back to about 4-6 feet. Leave only 4-5 canes and cut out the rest. 

In early November, apply about 12-15” of protective mulch or soil over the bud unions. Tree roses should be wrapped top to bottom with wire and sawdust or bark placed inside to protect the top and bottom graft. Cutting back rose stems too hard will invite frost into the tender stems, which we don’t want. So just tidy things up and protect the grafts for now!

5. Prune Some Conifers


To give them a better chance against heavy snow damage, most hedging cedars, junipers and other ‘non-bud-forming’ conifers can be tidied up and pruned right now. However, firs, spruce trees and pines should be left until the end of May. 

Non-flowering broad-leaved plants, like laurels, photinias and boxwood, can also be tidied at this time of year with a soft pruning. With so many hedging cedars stressed from the summer warmth and lack of moisture, a little controlled-release nitrogen lawn food, applied now, will also help them.

6. Lift & Protect Tender Tubers

Here in the Fraser Valley, the weather has been quite wet (and the forecast is for more of the same), so now would be a good time to lift and protect tuberous dahlias and canna roots for winter. Cut tubers back to about 4” from the soil level, carefully lift them out with forks, clean, dry, then store in a cool (40°F / 4.5°C), dry place over the winter.

7. Transition Tropicals Indoors

All tropical indoor plants that spent the summer outdoors must now be inside. Check them over thoroughly for insects and store them cool (50°F / 10°C) with plenty of light. Fuchsias, lantanas and Angel Trumpets should also be stripped of their leaves. Keep them just moist and refer to our blog on overwintering outdoor tropicals for more details!

8. Clean & Fill Garden Beds

As late-summer and fall herbaceous perennials finish and begin looking messy, it is time to prune them to the ground and apply manure or compost to help build up the soil for next year. Fill in the empty spaces left behind by planting winter pansies, violas and hardy evergreen perennials and grasses for a fantastic impact all winter. Pro tip: plant bulbs with them for a real treat next spring!

Is fall a kaleidoscope of colour in your garden? No? It should be! Take a look at all the potential for outdoor colour in other gardens and garden stores at this time of year—from tall, thin fire engine red maples to compact burning bushes. Plant more yellows, oranges and reds, to bring your autumn garden to life!

9. Feed the Pollinators

Remember the pollinators! Food sources are getting a little lean for the bees and butterflies. Great sources of pollen/nectar at this time of year are: Michaelmas Daisies/Asters, Aster novi-belgii, Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstsonne’, Heliopsis ‘Table Mountain’, winter-flowering heathers, Mahonia media ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’, and Mahonia aquifolium. You can find all of these right here at our garden centre in Chilliwack!


While our minds may be shifting from garden chores to gourds, there’s still plenty of work to be done to fuel our garden growth next year. But, if you spend your October checking off this list, you’ll be sure to have a spectacular spring next year!