October is here! It’s a great time to take care of a few tasks in your yard so your yard will be in great shape come spring. Here are my suggestions.
Continue to water
It’s important for your plants to go into dormancy well-hydrated. This gives them a better chance to survive Colorado’s dry winters and green up beautifully in spring. So, water regularly through the month of October while they’re still transpiring water.
How much should you water in October? About once per week should be enough. You might want to increase it to twice per week if we have a stretch of warm weather.
Keep in mind that September has been warmer and drier than normal with hardly any rain. According to local weather station data, most lawns should have been watered about twice per week during September. If you didn’t water that often, you might want to add 2 or 3 extra waterings during October to catch up from the previous month.
Cut some plants back
I hope to provide a more detailed post on this topic. But for now, here’s which plants to cut back.
Trees and shrubs- wait until late winter to prune. Don’t do any pruning now unless there’s a pressing issue, like a broken branch.
Ornamental grasses- wait until after the first of the year to cut back, many can be cut back in March or April.
Perennial flowers- if they still look attractive and healthy, you can leave them standing over the winter. If they don’t look good any more or have insect/disease damage, you can cut them back now.
Groundcovers- most do not need any pruning in fall.
Annual flowers- remove before winter so the debris doesn’t harbor insects or diseases.
Protect vulnerable trees
Male deer like to rub their antlers against flexible branches in fall. By doing so, they leave a scent that challenges other males and attracts potential mates. This rubbing can strip the bark on young trees and large shrubs, causing permanent damage.
To prevent damage, I’ve found it effective to make a longitudinal cut along a section of corrugated plastic. You can then open the sleeve and place it around the exposed area of vulnerable trees. And there you have your own, homemade tree protector!
Use a big enough diameter of pipe so that the pipe can wiggle freely around the trunk. You don’t want the pipe fitting snuggly around the trunk.
It might be worthwhile to get a partner to help get the sleeve on the tree. One person can open the sleeve wide enough so it doesn’t scrape the bark, while the other person can maneuver the sleeve onto the trunk.
Tree scientists do not recommend wrapping tree trunks with tree wrap anymore. It turns out that practice never prevented sun scald and actually increased temperature fluctuations at the bark.
Fertilize the lawn one last time
It’s sounds crazy, but fertilizing your lawn in late October (think Halloween) is a great way to keep your lawn healthy over the winter.
Here’s how it works. The fertilizer helps keep the lawn slightly green over the winter, which allows the grass to photosynthesize (make its own food) at a very slow rate over the winter. Making a little food means it’s not depleting its stored food reserves as rapidly. When spring comes, it has more reserves to draw upon during the rapid flush of spring growth. The bottom line? Fertilizer in October leads to a beautiful green-up in April. Go figure.
Keep in mind you need to water the fertilizer for it to be effective. If you’ve already turned off your sprinkler system by Halloween, it’s worthwhile to water with a hose and sprinkler around your yard after fertilizing. Learn more about how to fertilize your lawn.
Protect the soil with mulch
If you have areas of your yard covered with wood chip or shredded wood mulch, make sure your layer is 3 to 4 inches thick. A good layer of mulch will keep the soil moister and moderate the soil temperature over the winter, which makes plants much healthier and resilient.
If your mulch is too thin, add some to bring it up to this level. My e-book, How to Mulch, provides details on how to tackle mulching projects for long-lasting results.
Turn of your sprinkler system (and have it blown out)
Most Coloradoans turn off their sprinkler system some time in October to prevent freeze damage. Exposed parts are the most vulnerable, like the backflow preventer.
Most homeowners get a landscape professional to “blow out” their sprinkler system. They use an air compressor to force the water out of the sprinkler system parts to prevent freeze damage. If you would like this service performed, it’s a good idea make an appointment soon before they are booked.
So there you have it! Expend a little effort now, and you can enjoy your hot chocolate in peace. Our first hard frost will be here before you know it.