garlic cloves ready to be planted

Let’s Grow Stuff: Ben’s weekend wins for autumn

October 7, 2022 Benjamin Futa Leave a Comment

One of my favorite things about gardening is that it’s an endless form of job security; it’s a hobby that continually evolves and creates opportunities for us to stay busy and mark the passage of time in a healthy and meaningful way. In this spirit, here are a few easy weekend wins for you to add to your gardening calendar for the fall season.

1. Lift, divide or move Peonies. Peony roots (if you’ve never seen them) look more like tree limbs or elongated potatoes than the fibrous root masses of most other perennials we’re familiar with. Because of this, they much prefer to be lifted, moved or divided between October and November, as the plants are going dormant. Peonies can thrive in the same location for decades, and lifting and dividing is only necessary if you want to move them around your garden or expand your collection.

When digging, start about 8-10” away from where you see the stems emerge. I like to use a broad tine pitchfork for this rather than a shovel (to avoid severing any of those big, bulk roots). Dig straight down, not at an angle, and gently lift those big roots out of the ground. Slowly rock the root mass to help remove excess soil.

When you pull the roots out, you’ll notice most of them already have next year’s buds waiting and ready, and you’ll be able to recognize them because they’re shiny, greenish/white/pink nubs which are a contrast against the woody, brown skin of the roots. Be sure the pointy end of the buds are pointing toward the sky when you replant in their new home.

2. Plant your garlic and shallots. In my opinion, garlic is one of the easiest and most rewarding edible crops to grow, and I use it constantly in my cooking. With a long shelf life post-harvest, it’s an easy way to augment your pantry. Confession: I’ve planted garlic as late as Christmas Eve (twice now, actually), and it’s done great each time. Be sure to get yours in before the ground freezes, whenever that may be. The good news is we’re releasing a step-by-step guide of how to do this in the coming weeks! 

garlic cloves in the garden

Coming soon: a step-by-step video on planting garlic.

3. Winterize, clean and sharpen your tools. You can certainly wait until January to do this, however, I like to tackle this job before my unheated garage is -20 degrees. Plus, I know if I wait, spring will arrive before I’m ready, so this way I’m ahead of the curve for another season.

In addition to caring for small hand tools, it’s also a good idea to oil any wooden handles and sharpen your shovel blades, too.

4. Plant grass seed/low-mow fescue. Most lawn grasses, including my favorite low-mow fescue mixes, do best when planted in October. As cool-season plants, they enjoy the cooler, shorter days and more reliable, consistent moisture of fall. The seedlings won’t grow huge this fall, but allowing them to get started now will allow them to really take off next spring. An added bonus: you won’t need to baby them nearly as much, either, since nature will take care of that for you this time of year.

5. Order and plant your bulbs. Garlic included (see above), now is the time to add spring-flowering bulbs to your landscape for a burst of color next spring. I tend to prefer the reliable, perennial and easy-to-grow favorites like Daffodils, Crocus and Snowdrops over the big, showy tulips which might only have one good season in them to begin with. Species tulips are the exception and hold a special soft spot for me, because they’re reliably perennial and will casually spread throughout our gardens over time. We talk ordering bulbs here

And we demonstrate planting a bulb lawn here:

Well, there you have it! Summer is over, autumn is here and our gardens are changing. Set aside some time to take on these easy tasks, and enjoy the crisp air knowing that spring will be here before we know it 😉 or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. Until next time, happy gardening!

4 thoughts on “Let’s Grow Stuff: Ben’s weekend wins for autumn”

    • Hi Mary, so long as the ground isn’t frozen you can still plant! Snow doesn’t mean the ground is frozen (i.e. if you can dig, it isn’t frozen!) – Ben Futa

  • Thanks for your reminders and just an FYI, Demeter will be planting bulbs at Allen Centennial Garden on Wednesday. We are hoping for a nice sunny day, but it sounds like it will be a cool day.

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