I was going to do a month by month to do list all in one post, but I soon discovered that the post would have been extremely long. So instead we are going to go over what to do in your garden by month. While the posts will generally be shorter, I think it’ll break down easier and be less overwhelming. I’m also going to write this for those in zone 7 since that is where I am and this is what I do. I don’t feel right making a blanket post and you’re in zone 4 and can’t do half of this stuff. You can absolutely adjust this based on your growing seasons, frost dates, etc. So here is my October garden chores.
October Garden Chores
There is a fair amount of things that should be done in the October garden but it is not as exhausting as the spring or summer gardens. October is the month of final summer harvests and starting to harvest the fall garden. We are also prepping gardens for winter. Since, we are always pushing the limits on our fall gardens, we have some prep work that needs to be done before we actually button up for winter.
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Finish Pulling Summer Plants
Usually we are done with this chore in September, but sometimes we’ve let a tomato plant or sweet potatoes go for a little longer, depending on our weather. This means that we can have a ton of things to pull down, even if they are still producing for us.
We do not actually pull plants out of the ground, unless they are weeds. We choose to cut plants at soil level to allow the soil microbes to keep working and feeding. We started doing this after reading Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown, you can read my review on the book here.
If the bed is “done” for the winter, we will either lay the cut plants on top to act as mulch or we will put a chicken tractor over the cut plants and let the chickens do some work. If we have planted cover crops we will move the cut plants to the side and seed that bed with cover crops. Once the cover crops have sprouted, we will put cut plants back over the sprouts.
Planting Onions and Garlic
We plant all of our onion and garlic for the year in October to harvest in May/June. This means about 400 each of garlic and onion, which is a TON. But we usually eat about an onion per day and can run through some garlic pretty fast. We also try to put some to the side for replanting the following October.
This can be a pinch point in the garden because we have such a long growing season. Because we plant in October and harvest in June, we don’t want want to put it in a bed that we will need for spring or even early summer planting. This is when having a plan for the following year and understanding exactly what you’ve planted, where, etc is so important. It’s also a really good idea to make sure that you’ve got a good garden journal.
Before we get too far into this post, I wanted to give a suggestion about keeping a garden journal. A digital garden journal is a fantastic way to keep track of past, present and future gardens. Our Digital Garden Journal is a great way to keep up with everything without getting too overwhelmed.
Another option to avoid a pinch point in the garden is to use the garlic/onion beds to provide bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. In our zone (7b), our last frost is anywhere from April 15th to May 1st and our first frost is from October 15th to November 1st, and it is never the same. We plan our summer gardens off where the garlic and onions are and just prepare that bed for a bumper crop.
Barn Clean Out
While this doesn’t seem like a “normal” garden chore. We go through and thoroughly clean out the barn, chicken coops, tractors, etc and make sure that all of the animal bedding is either put into the beds that will be “bare” over winter or put into the compost piles.
I wrote a post about using animal bedding as compost here. This allows us to have a fresh space for the animals going into winter and also sets up those beds or compost piles for the following spring. While it’s not as much of a back breaking chore as it is in the spring, it is a really good time to amend beds that may have had heavy feeders in them the previous season.
Animals In The Gardens
This is the time of year that we let the animals eat the gardens. Not the whole garden, but we will put them into the garden areas that we want eaten. This helps us because we don’t have to chop and drop as much and the animals get a “free” meal.
For the chickens, this means putting their tractors over the kitchen garden beds and letting them go to town. They amend the beds, eat left over plants, and eat a bunch of pests that are in the beds. We have had a lot of luck with this but I’ve had a lot of people ask about the high nitrogen in chicken manure.
We’ve not had a problem with ANY plants burning because we don’t put the manure directly on the plants. What we do is add hot manure to the compost pile and let it age a bit. Or we will put in a bed that has gotten pretty low, and we add a bunch of soil or other compost over it. That way, it can continue to break down and drop all that nitrogen back in the soil.
This is a chore that a lot of people tend to forget about, myself included. It’s just not as hot! So there’s not really a need to get out there and make sure that the garden gets watered. The problem is, where we live, it doesn’t really rain a whole lot in September and October. Sure, we’ll get a shower here and there but it’s not uncommon to go weeks without a real rain.
Make sure you’ve still got your garden on a water timer like this one. We hook a 4 spout splitter above the timer like this one. This ensures that we don’t have to constantly adjust the water timer if we need to use the hoses.
You’ll also notice that you won’t need to water as often or as heavy, provided you’ve been mulching. That’s because the sun isn’t as bright or hot and, of course, the days are shorter.
That’s about it for my October Garden Checklist
I usually try to get out in my gardens at least 3 or 4 times a week at this point because I’m still harvesting green beans, peas, squashes, etc. But for the most part, my gardens are getting buttoned up for winter.
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Let me now in the comments what you do in October!
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