October Garden Calendar

See our three-part series on Lawn Renovation
Lawn Renovation, Part 1: Making Choices
Let’s Plant New Grass, Part 2
Lawn Fertilization And Weed Control, Part 3

Garden Help Desk

The plant-clinic season at local farmers markets and libraries has ended and will resume in May. Fairfax County master gardeners are prepared to answer your gardening questions at the Help Desk year round. Give them a call.

Plant Clinics

The plant-clinic season at local farmers markets and libraries has ended and will resume in May. Fairfax County master gardeners are prepared to answer your gardening questions at the Help Desk year round. Give them a call.

Trees & Shrubs

Leaf Drop
Yews, pines, junipers and arborvitaes typically drop their inner needles this time of year. Don’t be alarmed at this normal habit. However, leaves from shrubs such as roses that have exhibited disease must be raked up and removed. These leaves are likely to contain spores that will re-infect the plant next year.

Deer protection
Commercial sprays have a good track record in repelling deer. Spray every two to three weeks, and alternate among a few spray products to keep deer from growing accustomed to one scent.

When weather remains dry, water deeply any trees or shrubs that have been planted within the past year.

October is a good time to plant deciduous shrubs and trees, but it is getting late to plant evergreens. Evergreens are subject to desiccation in winter, especially if they have not become established. The risk of winter damage to late-planted evergreens increases the later into October they are planted. If you are planting a shrub or tree grown in a container, carefully inspect the roots. Prune out circling roots or those that have started to grow upward in the pot. Remove as much of the planting medium from the roots as possible, either by hand or using a hose. Tease out the roots so that they are pointing outward. Dig a hole that is at least twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball, and make sure the root flare of the trunk is at or a little above the final level of the backfilled soil. Do not amend the backfill soil. Water it well and continue regular watering throughout the fall.

Do not fertilize your trees and shrubs now. This can produce tender growth that is not hardy during winter cold. For deciduous trees, wait until they go into dormancy before fertilizing.

Prune all dead, damaged or diseased branches any time of the year. Other pruning of trees and shrubs should wait until cooler weather in November and beyond.


Soil test
This is a good time to have your soil tested and to apply lime if the soil test indicates a pH that is too acidic. Lime acts very slowly, so giving it the winter to raise the pH will provide benefits in the spring.

Leaves from your shade trees
Do not leave them sitting on the grass. Either remove them by raking or shred them with your mulching mower. The shredded leaves may be left on your turfgrass where they will decompose and return nutrients to the soil. If you remove the shredded leaves, save them in a compost pile.

Keep mowing. You may lower the cutting height from three to two inches for Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. Mow zoysiagrass and bermudagrass until it begins to go dormant late in the month.

Planting cool-season grasses
Early October is not too late to plant grass. Seed takes longer to germinate than it did in September. See Let’s Plant New Grass. Late in October, sod becomes a better option than seed.

If you are making three applications of 0.7 pounds of water soluble nitrogen or 0.9 pounds of water insoluble (over 50 percent) nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn, make another application in October.

Broadleaf weeds
You may use selective broadleaf weed-killers. Do not apply broadleaf weed-killers to newly seeded grass until you have mowed it at least twice. To be safe, check the label of the weed-killer for instructions on newly seeded lawns.

Vegetable Garden

It’s time to clean up. Good garden sanitation is important for prevention of disease and insect problems next year. Diseased vegetation should be put in the trash, not your compost bin. See article on putting vegetable garden to bed.Add compost to the soil. You may leave it on top or till it in. Tilling has the added advantage of destroying the habitats of pests that overwinter in garden soil.

You may plant a cover crop such as annual rye (grain not turfgrass). It will stay green all winter and provide great green manure in spring. You may plant cold-hardy lettuce varieties and protect them with row covers, low tunnels or cold frames.


Clean up any fallen fruits and limbs from beneath fruit trees. These may contain insect eggs or adults that will cause problems next year. Also remove dried, mummified fruit from the trees. These may contain diseases.

Rodent protection
Wrap trunks with hardware cloth which can be obtained at most garden centers and hardware stores. Tuck the wrap a little below the soil surface to prevent gnawing damage by voles.

Annuals, Perennials

This is a good time to plant hardy spring-flowering bulbs. They need well-drained soil and full sun.
Resist the temptation to cut back herbaceous perennials until after the first frost.


When nighttime temperatures start to dip below 50, bring your houseplants inside, but carefully inspect for insects or disease before letting them in the door, as these can spread to other indoor plants.
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Shrub Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-462
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Deciduous Tree Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-460
A Guide to Successful Pruning, Evergreen Tree Pruning Calendar, VCE Publication 430-461
Mowing To Recycle Grass Clippings: Let the Clips Fall Where They May, VCE Publication 430-402
Maintenance Calendar for Cool-Season Turfgrasses in Virginia, VCE Publication 430-523
Maintenance Calendar for Warm-Season Lawns in Virginia, VCE Publication 439-522
Spring and Summer Lawn Management Considerations for Cool-Season Turfgrasses, VCE Publication 430-532
October Tips: Trees, Shrubs and Ground Covers, VCE Publication
Integrated Pest Management for Vegetable Gardens, VCE Publication
October Tips: Fruits & Nuts, VCE Publication
Renovating Cool-Season Lawns, VCE Publication
October Tips: Interior Gardening, VCE Publication
October Tips: Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs, VCE Publication