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20 Organic Gardening Tasks To Do This October

by on October 7, 2023
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October is here and while the “growing” part of the gardening season is coming to an end, there’s still tons of tasks you can get out and complete now. While most of these 20 organic gardening tasks can be performed by gardeners in any grow zone, there’s a few that are best suited to Northern gardeners. So keep that in mind as you read through this post!

By the way…this list of October gardening tasks is meant to inspire you, not overwhelm!

So if you’re feeling like you just don’t have the time to get it all done, pick one or two and your future self will thank you in the Spring.

And if there’s other tasks not listed here that you complete each October comment them below, I’d love some new ideas for the Fall! I respond to all comments and love hearing from you.

20 Organic Gardening Tasks To Do This October

1. Record some field notes on the season. 

This is a great place to start and a task I suggest doing in October rather than in the Spring for two reasons:

  1. The past gardening season is still fresh in your memory, and..
  2. You’ll have more time now then in the Spring when there’s a multitude of other gardening tasks to get through.

Take some time to jot down your fav crops, where you planted things, new varieties you discovered, etc..

This will go a long way come Spring when you start planning again! 

Garden Hack: If you’re not much of a writer, just use your phone to snap some pics that you can come back to.

When I’m busy, I often use my phone as my “gardening journal” and then use the iPhone photo details for the date I took the photo, which helps me remember when I planted certain crops and/or when our first frost hit.

2. Save seeds from annual flowers

Once your first frost of the Fall hits, it’s easy to save flower seeds from annual plants. Like really easy! 

Simply look for brown flower heads, pull them off the stem and use your fingers to gently separate the seeds.

Flower seeds look different for each plant but you can usually identify the seed is as it will have a pointed end that looks almost like an arrow.

If you want a more specific walk through on how to do this, check out this awesome post by Deanna at Homestead & Chill.

3. Pull out annual plants and toss them in the compost pile

This task speaks for itself, just pull up your annual veggies, herbs and flowers at the root and toss them in your compost pile.

If you have time, you can also shred or cut them up into smaller pieces. This will help them decompose and breakdown quicker in your compost.

But truthfully…I’m a bit of a lazy gardener and never do this myself yet still get great compost each season. So don’t overthink it.

4. Prune your perennials, shrubs and trees

I used to overthink pruning my plants and would get so worried about it that I wouldn’t do it all together. But pruning your plants goes a long way and you’ll find they can easily put on double the growth the following season.

Here’s my quick Fall pruning guide:

For perennial flowers, prune dead flower heads but leave the remainder of the stem/root untouched.

For perennial herbs, prune woodier herbs, like chives, down to the stem but leave more leafy herbs, like mint, untouched.

For shrubs and trees, prune the bottom few layers of branches near the trunk of the tree.

Of course, mulching all these plants to provide them some insulation from the frost is key too!

5. Till the soil around your trees

We make sure to till our tree line one last time each October for a few key reasons.

Firstly, it removes any remaining roots from lingering weeds, which I find helps reduce the amount of weeds we see the following season. And secondly, tilling the soil stimulates your trees roots and can help them prepare for freezing temps.

6. Lift any tubers & corms and put them into storage 

Truth be told, this is totally new territory for me! I’m a rookie dahlia grower and after falling in love with my flowers this season I plan to lift my tubers and save them to use again.

Here’s the guide I’m following from one of my fav fellow Canadian bloggers, Shifting Roots

Please do comment below if you have any tips or strategies for lifting tubers/corm and storing them properly! I feel like there’s a lot of different approaches out there.

7. Repurpose straw mulch from containers & beds to act as frost protection for more delicate perennials

How to prep a garden bed for Fall planting

If you’ve followed me for some time then you know my love for straw mulch runs deep (I have two complete blogs covering the topic here if you want to know more!).

One of my fav things to do at the end of the season with straw is to repurpose my container mulch to protect my perennials. It’s easy to do and extends the life of your straw further.

Simply apply 2-3 inches of straw on top of your pruned perennials. You can water it down if you live in a windy area but otherwise that’s it!

Furthermore, if you have extra mulch you can add it to your compost pile. I love adding HealthiStraw to my compost, it makes it nice and fluffy come Spring!

8. Use raked leaves as an organic soil amendment

Leaves are the most underrated soil amendment. They’re free, accessible (I’m confident your neighbour will be more than willing to share if you need!) and full of beneficial microbes for your soil.

I cover my beds entirely with leaves each Fall as it helps protect them from the harsh Winter conditions. Leaves act as a barrier for the rain, snow and wind that can damage and breakdown microorganisms in your soil.

Here’s a reel on my Instagram where I walk through this process.

In years when I’ve been really busy, I just cover my beds entirely with leaves. But in years that I have had more time, I’ll shred the leaves with my lawn mower before covering my beds. This helps them break down quicker and adds more organic matter to my soil come Spring.

For leaves that haven’t broken down by Spring, I will either mix them into my soil with a shovel or add them to the compost pile.

9. Turn your compost pile one last time before Winter

Compost breaks down quicker when it has adequate oxygen and distribution of moisture. Hence why turning your compost pile is beneficial!

I’m sure to turn our compost pile one final time come October to help everything decompose a bit more before the Winter freeze comes. I find giving it one more turn also helps speed up the decomposition in the early Spring. It’s like you give everything an extra jump start.

Now there’s several different approaches out there to turning compost. Many will argue that manually doing so with a pitch fork is best.

But because we are busy people and our compost pile is big, we’ve always used the forks on our tractor…which works great! So do what works best for you depending on the size of compost pile you’re working with.

10. Make “insect hotels” with plant debris

I used to clean up our garden entirely in the Fall until it was a blank slate. But then I was introduced to the idea of an “insect hotel.”

An insect hotel, sometimes also called a bug house, can be really beneficial for your garden. It provides shelter, protection and a place for insects to live throughout Winter when there are not many other safe places to go.

To build an insect hotel, simply stack together different sizes of;

  • Plant debris
  • Cardboard
  • Tree bark
  • And/or other materials that insects can easily crawl into.

You can stuff all these materials into a container or just tuck them into a corner away from the wind in your garden.

The insects will naturally find them and spend Winter there. Come Spring you’ll likely notice more beneficial insects in your garden (and ideally pollinators too!) as many will lay their eggs in the hotel.

11. Feed the birds with sunflowers heads and spent garden fruit

Not everything needs to go to the compost pile. Consider the birds too!

I love snipping off our sunflower heads, hanging them from a bit of twine on the back deck and watching birds pick away. You can also gather spent fruit like tomatoes and peppers and put them on a tray for birds and squirrels to enjoy.

If you’re worried about this type of activity attracting unwanted wildlife, consider donating spent garden fruit to a local farm. The animals will love them!

12. Blow out water lines/irrigation and bring hoses inside to prevent freezing and cracking

I’ve yet to find a gardening hose that can withstand the harsh Winters we have here in Zone 3 Manitoba. If left outside, our hoses always freeze.

So rather than having to replace them the following season, we’re always sure to first blow out our irrigation lines and then bring the hoses inside the garage for Winter.

If you don’t blow out your lines, they’ll freeze, expand and burst. Not a good situation!

Blowing out water lines is quick and simple if you have an air compressor on hand.

Start by turning off your water valve to your well or water connection.

Then turn on your hose and/or watering wand and run it until any remaining water and pressure in the hose is gone. This should just take a few seconds.

Then turn on your connection valve to your irrigation, thread your air compressor into the valve (you may need a connector or fitting to fit it nicely) and let air into the system until any excess water is removed. This should take 1-3 minutes max.

You’ll know all the water is out of the lines when you just hear the air blowing through.

13. Clean-up containers and make an easy DIY cleaning solution to remove any lingering plant diseases/pests 

Your future self will thank you come Spring if you clean and sanitize all your containers now!

You’ll reduce your risk of plant disease spreading and knock a Spring gardening task off the list way ahead of time.

Here’s the recipe to my easy DIY plant container sanitizer:

  • 1L of water
  • 1 1/2 cups of vinegar
  • 1 lemon sliced

Add all ingredients to a spray bottle and drench your containers. Let sit for 10-20 minutes and then hose off with water before stacking and putting away containers until next season.

14. Put away garden decor, trellises and furniture

This task is simple, easy and speaks for itself!

But the main reason why I’m sure to put away all my trellises, plant supports, etc…each Fall is because it provides me a blank slate come Spring and encourages me to practice crop rotation, planting new veggies and flowers in new beds.

15. Plant a cover crop

Whether you choose to plant rye, clover, buckwheat or peas…any Winter cover crop you choose is great for building soil. It will feed your soil and in turn feed you!

My friends and go-to seed provider, West Coast Seeds have an abundance of cover crop options for you to choose from.

Sow your cover crop before your first hard frost, ideally 2-4 weeks before. The moisture in the ground and rain/snow in the forecast should provide enough moisture for the seeds to stick and germination to begin.

Come Spring, your cover crop likely be the first green to appear in your garden. You can either till it into your soil before planting other plants in that space, or let it grow until the following Fall.

16. Plant trees and shrubs

Fall is the best time to plant trees and shrubs in Canada, hands down! I cover why in detail here in my post Why Fall Is The Best Time To Plant Trees In Canada.

You’ll also find my detailed list of The Best Tree Varieties For Zone 3 here where I share trees that thrive in our extreme climate.

But the other reason why I love planting trees in the Fall here in Canada is because it’s typically when you can find the best prices on trees and shrubs at garden centres before they close for the season.

17. Sow some experimental veggies for an early Spring harvest

You’ll be surprised what will come up in the Spring!

There’s tons of annual veggies that can withstand Winter here in Zone 3, including spinach, kale and Asian greens.

If you have a yard or property that is protected by the wind or a garden bed that is up against the side of your house, try utilizing the added protection and warmth to your benefit and plant an experimental crop.

Key word: experimental.

There’s certainly a chance nothing will germinate come Spring but I so encourage you to give it a shot! You never know.

18. Plant your hardneck garlic

When is the perfect time to plant hardneck garlic

Depending on your grow zone, October can be a great time to get your hardneck garlic in the ground.

I cover the exact timing and what to consider weather wise here in my guide How To Grow Great Hardneck Garlic – Fall Planting Guide.

If you’re wondering if October is the right time for you to get your garlic in the ground, make sure to wait until after your first frost. You don’t want hardneck garlic to set roots in the Fall before Winter hits. It’s best to wait until the long range forecast is consistently around freezing.

I’ve even have a Tik Tok showing me planting hardneck garlic in a snowstorm and enjoyed an amazing crop with huge heads of garlic the following season!

19. Plant any spring-blooming bulbs, like tulips and peonies

This is a task your future self will absolutely love you for come Spring.

Planting flowering bulbs in the Fall in northern climates is easy! Just be sure to provide adequate insulation with leaf and/or straw mulch.

I typically wait until mid to end of October to get my tulip bulbs in the ground as there’s usually still a few warm days that will allow my tulips to set roots but not begin to sprout.

Unlike garlic, you want this and it’s key for Fall flowering bulbs!

20. Build a cold frame for early Spring planting

Here’s another task you can get ahead of in the Fall shoulder season and reap the benefits of come Spring.

There’s so many fantastic ideas out there for building cold frames, but one of my favourites is simply using a poly top to heat the soil in the early Spring and then opening it to let airflow in as the days get warmer. If you have a raised bed you can lay your poly frame on the top of it, making this task even easier.

Check out this awesome Pinterest board for more cold frame inspo.

And there you have it!

I hope you’ve discovered some new ideas for this Fall with these 20 organic gardening tasks to complete in October.

Comment below if there’s other tasks you complete at this time of year. I answer all comments and love hearing from you!

You can follow @fromsoiltosoul on InstagramPinterest and Tik Tok for more gardening content too.

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