High Country gardener’s checklist for October | VailDaily.com

High Country gardener’s checklist for October

The Wildflower Gurus
VAIL CO, Colorado

Use this checklist to make sure your lawn and garden (and more) is ready for winter.

Trees and shrubs

Deep-root water trees and shrubs on a warm day if the soil is not frozen or covered with snow.

Use tree wrap on young trees (less than three years old) or those with light-colored bark. This will help prevent sunscald as a result of our intense winter sun.

Fertilize after the first hard freeze and leaf drop. Trees and shrubs go dormant in the fall and the fertilizer will be ready when the ground thaws next spring.

Put up holiday lights on trees before the snow and cold temperatures make the task more difficult.


If your lawn is still growing, continue mowing. Use a mulching mower and leave clippings to decompose and enrich the soil over the winter.

Irrigation and garden tools

Drain hoses and sprinklers that aren’t frost free. Disconnect hoses from outdoor faucets.

Put a fuel stabilizer in with the gas in your lawn/garden power tools. Run the engine to distribute the stabilizer then drain the rest of the fuel.

Drain and recycle the oil from mowers, blowers and trimmers. Clean air filters, replace spark plugs and oil necessary parts.

Clean and sharpen your digging and pruning tools before storing them. Apply a light coat of oil to prevent rust.

Store pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze.


Sow wildflower seed before winter sets in.

Continue pulling weeds by hand until snow covers the garden. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent fall weeds from sprouting and growing larger.

Continue planting and transplanting perennials until the ground starts to freeze. If you don’t have time before it freezes, you can “heel” the plants into a trench, pots and all. Cover with mulch until you’re ready to plant in the spring.

Continue pulling weeds by hand until snow covers the garden.

DO NOT cut back the following perennials: arctostaphylus (kinnikinnick), bergenia, brunnera, fragaria (strawberry), iberis, penstemon, creeping phlox, creeping veronica, creeping thymus, creeping saxifrage, low growing and creeping sedums, succulents and woody stemmed plants in general.

Cut back perennials with a defined, bulky crown to 3-inch high to avoid damaging the crown. If the perennial doesn’t have an exposed crown, you can cut it back to 1-inch high. If you like, cut back ornamental grasses to 6-inch high.

Mulch perennials and roses after the first hard frost. Especially important if they are a less hardy species or don’t receive much snow-cover.

Before putting your garden to bed for the winter, till or spade the soil, leaving chunky clods. The freeze and thaw cycle will heave the clods so they will hold more snow and retain moisture better throughout the winter.

Fresh, hot, homemade compost can only be added in the fall. By the time spring comes, it will have lost its heat and won’t harm new growth on plants.

For garden beds close to roads, cover with landscape fabric and secure with staples or sod pins. This prevents plant damage and soil toxicity from de-icing products and cinders. This should be the last thing you do before the snow. If plants are covered too early, they may dry out.


Clean your feeders and stock up on seed and suet. Providing a water source is just as important; using a birdbath heater makes this easy year-round.


Fertilize houseplants with slow-release fertilizer like Marine Cuisine or Osmocote through November, then stop feeding until February.

Start forcing paperwhite (narcissus) bulbs for Thanksgiving blooms.

Plant amaryllis bulbs in pots for Thanksgiving blooms. Wait until the end of October for Christmas blooms.

For more gardening information, become a member of the Wildflower Farm. You’ll receive the member’s monthly newsletter and exclusive discounts.

Wildflower Farm is located in Edwards on Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or digit@thewildflowerfarm.com.

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