October Gardening Guidelines

by Keith C. Hansen, Extension Horticulturist, Smith Co. – Tyler, Texas

October is a great time for gardening and landscaping. Many plants can be set out now, and this is the perfect time to be replacing plants lost due to this summers drought.



October is bulb buying month. They are in fresh supply, and provide welcome late winter and early spring color for the yard. Bulbs which can be planted right after purchasing include daffodils and the smaller flowered jonquils, species tulips and grape hyacinths. The larger showy tulips and hyacinths need to be refrigerated at least 45 to 60 days to provide enough chilling to bloom properly next year. Plant them in late November or early December.

The Smith Co. Master Gardener program has its Fall Bulb Sale at Harvey Convention Center each Octoberwhere you can find uncommon, but very hardy, well-adapted, and heritage bulbs for sale.


The most popular of the cool season flowering annuals to be set out now are pansies. There are so many types and colors of pansies it might be hard to pick just one. There are pastels shades, varieties with no faces, and miniature flowers, so you should have no trouble finding one you like. One tip for flowering annuals – the brighter the color, like reds or yellows, the easier they will be seen from a distance. Blues are best viewed up close.

Besides pansies, other bedding plants that can be planted now include pinks, dianthus, flowering cabbage and kale, snapdragons, violas, and calendulas.

Wildflowers and seeded annuals like California poppy, oriental poppy, larkspur and bluebonnets should be sown early this month.

October is also a great month to divide and plant spring-blooming perennials like native columbines, daylilies, phlox, Louisiana and bearded irises, dianthus, coreopsis, coneflowers and daisies. If you have extras after dividing, give to or trade with a gardening friend or neighbor.


The fall season is also a perfect time to establish new trees and shrubs. Plants set out now undergo less stress, and their roots have months to grow and become established before spring growth begins and summer heat and drought arrive next year.


Tall fescue and ryegrass can also be planted in early October. It is too late to sow Bermuda or centipede seed. Beware that armyworms could quickly devour newly sprouted ryegrass.


Vegetables that can be transplanted or seeded in early October include beets, Brussels sprouts (plants), Swiss chard, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, radish, spinach and turnips.


St. Augustine, Bermuda and centipede lawns should be fertilized no later than the first week of October if you have not already made your fall application. Use a 3-1-2 or similar ratio. Lawns are not growing quite so fast now, but keep up with the mowing. Continue mowing at the same height, and do not remove more than 1/3 of the length of the grass blades to prevent stress.

If St. Augustine or Bermuda grass does not seem to growing well, it could be the pH is too low. Fall is a good time to add lime if the soil is acidic. Get a soil test done to determine the soil pH and add lime if pH is below 5.7. Centipede lawns usually do not need liming since centipede tolerates moderately acidic soils.

Perennial and annual ryegrass can be sown now to cover bare soils to protect from erosion.


Once cooler, wetter weather arrives, brown patch fungus can be a problem in St. Augustine (and sometimes centipede) lawns. This disease appears as more or less circular patches, with brown grass in the center and a halo of yellowing grass at the edge of the patch. A test for brown patch is to gently pull on individual yellowing or brown grass blades. If they pull easily from the runner, and appear rotted at the base of the blade, they have brown patch.

If your lawn has had brown patch in the past, it is a candidate to get it again under the right conditions. Conditions which favor brown patch development include mild days and nights with prolonged wetness of the grass. Do not water in the evening, and with the milder days of fall, lawn watering should be done less often, especially if it rains. Apply PCNB (Terraclor, Turfcide) or Bayleton at the first sign of symptoms to prevent this disease.

If you have planted any of the cole crops, like cabbage, collards and broccoli, watch out for cabbage loopers or cabbage worms. These are those green worms that riddle leaves like they’ve been blasted with a shotgun. Apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to control these hungry pests. Bt controls only caterpillars and is very environmentally safe.

Pine trees, junipers and arborvitae all begin shedding needles at this time of year. This is normal. Make good use of pine needles as a mulch around shrubs and new trees.

The information given herein is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel is implied.

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