October Sustainable Garden Maintenance Practices for the Southeast, Ecoregion 231

Posted by on October 1, 2017

OCTOBER The air of October is filled with fragrance. Off in a distance and next to the deck, designing with fall fragrance completes a fine design.  The fall finds us in the garden more; relaxing, playing, dining.  What better way to enhance these moments than with fragrance?

Fall for me brings the beginning of the new gardening year, and October is fall’s most festive month. October gardening in North Carolina is the reward for all your hard work throughout the year. Now is the time to appreciate your landscape, but do some preparedness as well.

I’m not sure what excites me more, the foliage color change or the additional light from fewer leaves on the trees.

We continue to see blooms until the first frost–asters, coneflowers, helianthus, helenium, lantana, milkweeds,phlox, ruella, salvias, solidago, sedums, plus summer annuals are blooming their full heads off, especially the zinnias!

Deadhead: Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead, and may see another flush of fresh flowers.

As long as the ground isn’t frozen, it’s not to late to plant and transplant trees and shrubs.  It’s best to root-prune this month and transplant thirty days (or more) later. This allows woody ornamentals a chance to recuperate before being transported to their new location. Root pruning stimulates small feeder roots near the trunk. These new roots will be dug as part of the transplant, allowing the tree or shrub to better adapt.

  • Water the soil well the day before root pruning.
  • Prune out from the trunk 10-12 inch diameter root ball for ever inch of truck diameter. Thus, a 2-inch diameter root ball will be root pruned about 2 feet from the trunk.
  • Using a flat spade, begin cutting a trench about 24 inches deep. If you run into large roots, cut with loppers.
  • Continue cutting a circular trench around the tree trunk and water thoroughly.

Plant cool-season vegetables. The cooler fall temperatures bring back cool-season crops. It’s time to plant or seed spinach and collards. Also, cilantro and lettuce will once again thrive in your garden.

Consider trying some new varieties this year, or vary your usual choices. Why not add some red-leaf lettuce? Loose-leaf red lettuce packs a high nutritional value, including being an excellent source of beta carotene.

There is still time to order your  your spring-blooming bulbs.


Radishes, arugula, lettuce…

I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

Apple — Malus pumila, Honey Crisp — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Apple — Malus domesticaNorth Pole Sentinel apple

(Crab)apple — Malus ‘Transcendent’

Blueberries — Vaccinium ashei ‘Premier’, ‘Climax’, & ‘Powder Blue’

Cherry ‘Stella’ —  Prunus avium ‘Stella’ — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Chokeberry — Aronia melanocarpa

Chokecherry — Prunus virginiana

Dogwood — Cornus kousa by next month, I will be harvesting the fruitKousa fruit Good Berry

Cornelian cherry — Cornus Mas

Elderberry — Sambucus cerulea

Fig — Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ The second crop is a bumper!

Fig — ‘LSU Purple’ — Hasn’t fruited for me yet.

Goji Berry — Lyceum barbarum

Goumi Berry — Elaeagnus multiflora

Kiwi, Hardy — Actinidia arguta

Kumquat — Fortunella japonica   Flowers in the winter for us, but doesn’t fruit; or at least it has never fruited for me. My specimen is 10 years old.

Raspberries — Ever-bearing, Rubus idaeus

May Apple — Podophyllum peltatum

Muscadines —Vitis rotundifolia, Lots and lots of muscadines!

Passiflora — Passiflora incarnata 

Paw-paw — Asimina triloba In fruit now.

Pear, Barlette — Prunus communis 

Persimmon —  Diospyros kaki ‘Fuyu’

Plum ‘Santa Rosa’ — Prunus salicina ‘Santa Rosa’

Pomegranate — Punica granatum ‘Nana’ and…

Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Unknown variety, with a medium height. Ready for picking

Quince — Cydonia oblongas

Raspberries — Rubus spp.

Serviceberry — Amelanchier arborea

Strawberries —  Fragaria × 

Serviceberry — Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’


As the berries in our area ripen, the birds are having a feast. Keep your birdbaths filled with fresh water, changing it out ever four days to break the mosquito larvae cycle.

Don’t be so quick to tidy up.  The remains of the summer and fall garden give shelter, food and cover for the wildlife while also adding winter interest to the garden beds Wait until spring before you put your garden to bed for the winter. Our native bees use your hollowed stems as nesting sites. Feel free to tidy up, but don’t take everything away. This is your opportunity to re-define beautiful.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have, is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

Mulch: Compost those leaves. Use your mower equipped with a mulching blade to chop fallen leaves on the grass. These leaves make a wonderful addition to the garden beds or compost pile.

Water in well before winter. If October and November are dry, give perennials a deep final soaking so they go dormant in good conditions. They’ll be less subject to being killed in winter with a drink before they sleep.

Pest control:   Watch out for canna leaf roller. Cannas are a great accent plant and attract hummingbirds to the garden. Plus, most canna cultivars are hardy in the Southeast and can overwinter in the ground. If you found your canna foliage riffled with holes, you probably have leaf roller. Canna leaf rollers are major pest in the Southeast, causing the beautiful foliage to be unsightly. 


Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in August? Seed more in September to enjoy in October, and be sure to cut some to enjoy inside!



3 responses to “October Sustainable Garden Maintenance Practices for the Southeast, Ecoregion 231”

  1. Pansies and Snapdragons make a pretty bed; the addition of Iceland Poppies makes it magical.

  2. Peggy St. Clair says:

    Do you know the variety of dahlia you have pictured above? Beautiful color…

  3. HelenYoest says:

    I look to see if I can find this. It was a gift to me from the late Vivien Philips.

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