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IN THE GARDEN: October duties

If you want to rid your garden of roly-polies, try diatomaceous earth, a safe and organic pest control.

Here's your list of things to do in the garden in October.

1. Place tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator for 60 days. These have to chill for that period of time before planting in December. The other bulb plants — bluebell, Christmas rose, crocus, daffodil, fritillary, Glory of Snow, iris (bearded and Siberian), snowdrop, snowflake, and Star of Bethlehem — can be planted now. Plant your bulbs (not tulip or hyacinth) so the base of the bulb is at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb.

2. Make a list of trees that you want to plant in November and December.

3. Start planning for next spring and cleaning the gardens for winter. Remove all annuals as blooms begin to dwindle. Cut the tops off of all herbaceous perennials that have completed their flowering cycle or when the first freeze has killed their leaves.

4. If you have been saving seeds of those favorite plants, allow them to air dry. Then, place them in an air-dry container. Be sure to mark what they are before putting them away.

5. Late this month, begin to dig your caladium bulbs to save them for next year. After several days (7-10) remove the leaves and dirt then pack them, without them touching each other, in peat moss, vermiculite, or a similar material for storage. Dust with an organic fungicide and place in an area where the temperature will not drop below 50 degrees.

6. How are your tomatoes growing? (The ones we cut back from the summer.) How about those you have planted for the fall?

7. It is time to feed the azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons with bone meal to encourage bud formation.

8. When you are composting, be sure to add coffee grounds to assist in bringing the pH level down.

9. If we want to have beautiful and healthy lawns next spring, now is the time to prepare. The month of October is the best time to fertilize (8-2-4) for the winter. Or, spread your pre-emergent to minimize weed intruders.

READER QUESTION

Carolyn asks: “What is an organic solution to pill bugs?”

Carolyn, pill bugs (Armadillidium vulgare) are crustaceans, meaning they have exoskeletons similar to shrimp. Although they are fun to play with, these isopods are decomposers. They feast on transplants and seedlings.

You have a couple of options, first diatomaceous earth (DE).

Diatomaceous earth is not poisonous; it is pet- and child-friendly. DE is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms, whose skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica, which causes insects to dry out and die by absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect's exoskeleton. DE's sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process.

To eradicate the pill bugs, spread DE around your garden, a top layer. A second option is to bait the roly-poly. Use a corn cob or slice of melon and set it in your garden. The pill bugs will congregate for the buffet. Then, dispose of the melon rind in a small trash bag before placing it in the trash can.

Fair warning, the bait might attract more than just the roly-polies. Consider wearing gloves before you pick it up. Also remember: Pill bugs are really good cleanup bugs, equal to the vultures cleaning up roadkill.

Till next time. Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

"In the Garden" is written by father-daughter team Bill and Martelle Luedecke. Contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or luedeckephotography@gmail.com. Contact Bill at 512-577-1463 or bill@texasland.net.

Read more "In the Garden" columns in the 101 Lawn & Garden Guide.

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