October perennial care

Thu. Oct. 3, 2019

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

 Last year at this time, we had some crazy wild weather where I live in southeastern Minnesota.  I cited the Old Farmers Almanac which said our Upper Midwest weather for the winter of 2018/19 was supposed to be a little warmer and drier. That wasn’t even close, so I’m not even going to hint at a prediction for this coming Winter!! If you’d like to see what the Almanac says, you can click on that link!

carrots, onions and potatoes from my friends farm! There’s a hunk of meat in there too!

Instead, I’ll talk about some October to-do’s in the garden. 

It’s time to start putting the gardens to bed, chopping the leaves for mulch, burning the fallen branches that have piled up.  October can be a busy month outdoors.  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 can collect seeds of rudbeckia and coneflowers right now.  Cut the heads off in the afternoon when the plant is dry, open the flower head and collect the seeds. 

coneflower seedhead
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!

black eyed susans seedheads – wet – these are too wet to harvest

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!

Many will nibble on the seeds and Salvia and hardy mums actually seem to overwinter better when the dead stems are left standing.  

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!

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.

Grasses ‘Karl Forester’ and a switch grass by Teri Knight

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!

spent foliage
Honeysuckle vine – 9-29-19. Gonna have to do some severe pruning on this guy. Yowza! PS, a hummingbird magnet!