University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

October Yard and Garden Activities

September 30, 1999

With the arrival of October tomorrow, most gardening thoughts start turning toward cleanup and the end of the growing season. There are a number of things that can be done during the pleasant autumn days of October.

Certainly yard and garden clean up should be at the top of the list. Dead vegetable and flowering annual plants have been accumulating, and all the leaves from trees will be coming soon! Most of the material can be used in the compost pile, and then the finished compost can be used as a soil amendment to help future plantings.

Backyard composting is a fairly simple process. Mixing these brown plant materials with green material, such as grass clippings or nitrogen fertilizer, is the key to success. Adequate moisture, air, and pile volume are also needed.

Dead plant material can also be used as mulch or directly worked into the soil without composting. Chopping the materials helps them decompose faster for all uses.

October is a fairly quiet time for lawn care. Continue to mow as needed. Consider aerating to help the soil under your lawn. It's too late for seeding, as the seedlings most likely will not harden off for winter. Also avoid fertilizing unless you wait until late October. Broadleaf weeds can be sprayed in early October.

October is a good time for fertilizing shade trees. Don't overfertilize trees, however, as it could lead to problems. If the tree has already been fertilized this year, wait a season or two before doing it again. Methods include surface application, use of tree spikes, injection into the soil of liquid materials, or making many small holes and adding granular fertilizer to them. A variety of factors influence the decision of which method to use.

If conditions get dry again after the rains this week, landscape plantings will benefit from being watered. In particular, water evergreens as needed from now until the ground freezes so they get through the coming winter in good shape. Deciduous trees and shrubs, groundcovers, and fruit crops also benefit from a good watering if rains do not occur in October.


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