By Jennifer – The Garden Mill

The cooler temps are definitely good for getting work done out in the yard – it makes me want to spend all day outside, which is a good thing, since I have a lot to do. Here are some of the things I know I need to get done this month:Vegetable Garden:

  • If you still have plants in your vegetable garden, keep fleece row covers handy to protect them from frost. Some crops, such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli can take a bit of frost and may actually have improved taste, but many plants will not survive even light frost.
  • If you do still have warm-weather loving plants in your garden – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, or squash – they’re probably pretty much done.
  • Once your plants have stopped producing, clean out the garden. Do this earlier in the month so you’re not out in the freezing temperatures at the end of the month, wishing you had done it sooner!
  • Around the end of the month – possibly sooner if we get some really good frosts – it’s time to plant garlic. Garlic gets planted in the fall in Michigan. We can grow garlic that gets planted in the spring, but it doesn’t generally get as big, and often just doesn’t do as well here as the varieties planted in the fall.
  • The last thing you need to do before you close the books on the 2020 gardening season is to clean your tools before putting them away. Doing so will help your tools last longer, and make them work better for you.

 Flower Garden:

  • Fall is a good time to divide and transplant perennials, but make that a chore you do sooner, rather than later. The plants need to have time to get acclimated in their new space before we start getting killing frosts and before the ground freezes. After planting them, give them a good layer of mulch, keep them well-watered, and cover them up at night for a while if temps are dipping into the low 40s or lower.
  • Make sure all of your plants go into winter with a good layer of mulch over their roots. It’s not unusual for us to get thaws throughout the winter, which can cause heaving, leading to damage to the crown and roots, or even to the death of the plant.
  • Don’t put away hoses yet. The terribly dry summer we had has stressed plants tremendously this year, and if they go into the winter dry, the combined stress of that and winter could mean the end of them. While we have had some rain recently, if that doesn’t continue, you will want to keep watering up until the ground freezes, to help your plants make it through the winter.
  • Once we have had a killing frost, it’s time to dig up your dahlias, cannas, gladiolus, and other tender bulbs. These tender perennials can’t survive our winters, so they need to be dug up and stored in a cool, dry place.
  • I like to leave my ornamental grasses and other perennials up for the winter and cut them back in early spring, while other people like to cut them back now. If the plants aren’t suffering from disease, you get to decide what look you prefer in your garden.
  • Plant spring-blooming bulbs this month. It’s best to wait until we have had at least a couple of good frosts, so wait a little longer to do this task.
  • If you are interested in forcing spring-blooming bulbs in pots, get your bulbs now, as they need a chilling period of 8 to 12 weeks.
  • It’s time to replace your summer container flowers with ones to take you all the way through fall, such as mums, ornamental kale, and asters.

Trees and Shrubs:

  • As with your perennials, keep watering your trees and shrubs all the way up until the ground freezes. This is especially true for any that you planted this year, and all conifers, regardless of when they were planted.
  • With shorter days and cooler temperatures, leaves are starting to fall. You don’t want to leave them on your lawn, as that can cause issues for the grass, but you have better things to do than spend hours raking them up – right? Well, the good news is – you don’t have to. 


  • Speaking of mowing, the cooler temps and rain we have been getting recently are ideal conditions for growing grass, so make sure you are keeping it mowed.
  • Mid-October is a good time to give your lawn one last application of fertilizer to help it be at its healthiest going into winter.


  • If you are putting in new plants this fall and you also like to watch birds, consider plants that will attract more birds and more varieties of birds. Plants that provide seeds or berries can attract some birds, while plants that attract beneficial insects will bring birds that feed on insects.
  • Don’t put your hummingbird feeders or birdbaths away yet. As long as we aren’t getting freezing temperatures, both your hummer feeders and birdbaths can still be useful to the birds.