Perennials: Continue bulb planting, first the early blooming ones such as, crocus, and snow drops, then the myriad varieties of daffodils. Bulbs to be naturalized can be scattered in an area where they can multiply freely. Tulips can wait until early November. Make sure all bulb planting sites have good drainage. Before planting, work fertilizer (5-10-5 or 6-12-6) or bone meal at a rate of 3 pounds per 100 square feet into the top 8 inches of soil.
Flowers: Pull up spent annuals and compost them. Wait until the first frost to liftbulbs and tubers from the ground. Green leaves mean the plants are still storing food for next year’s growth. Lift carefully and protect the roots from drying by packing them in dry sand, vermiculite or slightly moistened peat moss and store in a cool (40-50 degrees) well-ventilated place.
Vegetables and fruits: Divide rhubarb roots. A good-sized clump can be divided into several parts. Before planting dig in compost and well-rotted manure. Parsnips and Brussels sprouts taste better after touched by frost. Hold off on mowing the asparagus bed until the tips have been killed by frost. Plant garlic before the ground freezes. They do well in a raised bed as they don’t like wet feet.
Trees and shrubs: Plant and transplant deciduous trees and shrubs after leaf fall between Oct. 15 and Dec. 1. If planted correctly newly planted young trees do not need staking. Make sure that all burlap wrapping is removed from the root ball. Wrapping them against rodents and sun scald is not necessary but may help prevent these problems. Water, water, water.
Lawns: Keep fallen leaves from matting on the lawn; better yet, shred them and add to the compost. Or just mow and mulch them in place. Mow newly seeded areas when the new grass is 3 inches high.
Houseplants: Treat yourself to some new houseplants. Isolate them for several weeks to be sure they won’t spread possible disease to other plants.
General: Fall color will reach its peak later this month. Warm sunny days and cool (to 45 degrees) nights enhances leaf color. The spectacular display that we enjoy is confined to Northeastern United States and one or two places in Japan and China that have a climate like ours. This may change with climate change.
Susan Henry, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester