October perennial care

Thu. Oct. 1, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: October perennial care

Yowza, it’s October 1st. This year feels like it’s taking forever and flying by…. Into a bright future!

My Red maple 2020

You can start preparing for that bright future with some October to-do’s in the garden.

Now’s the time to collect seeds of rudbeckia and coneflowers.  Cut the heads off in the afternoon when the plant is dry, open the flower head and collect the seeds. You might want gloves on for some seeds, they can be kinda prickly. 

coneflower seeds

You can store them in a dry area in jars or envelopes.  Make sure you mark them or it really will be a surprise!  Sometimes you’ll get the exact same flower, other times, well, it’s a surprise.  That’s part of the fun! 

photo taken in late September 2020
black eyed susans seedheads – not quite ready for harvest – they need to be dry

It’s time to cut the foliage of your peonies and hosta to reduce the risk of fungal leaf disease in next years garden.  If your hosta still have a few flower stems, leave those alone.  Birds will munch on the seeds over the winter but do get rid of the foliage.

Hosta seedheads. I’ll cut the foliage back when it’s looking yellowed and spent

You’ll need to decide what kind of look you want for your winter garden.  What I call the “Mr. Clean” look with no ‘dead stuff’ left standing or the “Lazy Susan”, which is a bit of a misnomer and not just because this is my method!  I like to leave many of my ‘dead’ perennials standing for winter interest.  AND, there’s good reason to leave your natives up to feed the birds! 

late winter grasses

Many will nibble on the seeds and Salvia and hardy mums actually seem to overwinter better when the dead stems are left standing.   And, of course, grasses are outstanding in the winter time.  A must for me.  I’m leaving most of perennials to prune in the Spring. 

this photo was from 9-29-19. I bought this mum at the end of the season in 2018 and planted it in my vegetable garden last year late…. it looks fabulous. Many of the “annual” mums are actually hardy!

However, do take out any diseased or bug ridden parts!  If your garden suffered from fungal disease, get rid of the plants and clean up the area!

For those who had lilac blight, cut those back! I know it’s not easy. But this disease will stick around….  I haven’t cut mine back yet, but I will be doing that this month… don’t compost those leaves in your home compost, clean them up and take them to your yardwaste site.