Food & Garden: October gardening

By Andrew Padula, Contributing Columnist and owner of Greer-based Padula's Plants:

Plant watering:

With the unusual heat wave that struck the Upstate area through the month of September, many garden plants suffered. It seemed like they could not be watered enough. There have been some rains and storms but nothing that would help to correct the drought we are in.

During fall, there are often times days which are not as humid when compared to a hot summer day. Because of the lack of high humidity during these fall days, when it gets above 75 degrees F. outside, the moisture in your garden evaporates into the air much faster. This causes many gardens to dry out faster, even when they are watered well.

Most types of garden soils high in clay do not absorb water very quickly when they become close to or even past the point of dry. Once the life in your garden soil has left or died because of the hot and unfavorably dry conditions, your garden soil has reached a point past dry. When a garden is simply dry, the most obvious signs are wilted plant leaves or a lack of much garden wildlife at ground level, ground level wildlife which is usually all around in a healthy garden that is full of moisture to some degree. A less obvious sign of a garden under stress from ongoing dry conditions would be poor growth and early flowering of annual plants, compared to the times it usually takes them to flower from their seedling stage. Watering your garden or native soil for much longer then the time you think is needed is often times just what the soil needs during dry conditions, when no rain or little amounts of rain have prevailed over time passed. So instead of watering for five minutes, water for ten minutes. However, during times of rainy weather patterns your garden may need just as much water as you think it does if it looks dry, less water than you think it does, or none at all.

One thing to keep in mind is that many types of perennial plants are starting to go dormant during the fall season. So by knowing which plant is looking bad from being in hot and dry conditions and which plant is looking bad because it is going to sleep for the season, it can help you determine why the plant you are looking at is looking the way that it is.

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Fall is a great time to start collecting seeds here in the Upstate from plants like Canna, Ironweed, Joe Pye Weed, Passion Flower Vine, Carolina Swamp Rose, Morning Glory, American Beautyberry, Goldenrod, Skullcap, Wood Mint, Partridgeberry Vine, Onion, Oak Tree, American Groundnut Vine, Solomon's Seal, Milkweed, Smilax Vine, Paw Paw Tree, Persimmon Tree, Hibiscus, Wild Aster, along with many other kinds.

This morning the Resina Calendula seedlings have started to come up along with the Japanese Mizuna Mustard seedlings and Roman Chamomile seedlings. These seedlings were started about four days ago and make a great addition to a cool weather fall garden. Some other seeds that can be started outdoors during the month of October include, Columbine, Onion, Calendula, Mustard, Bok Choy, Nasturtium, Cabbage, Thyme, Roman Chamomile, Climbing Pea, Cilantro, Italian Parsley, Chicory, Indian Blanket Flower, Kale, Leek, Garlic, Turnip, Moss, Ajuga, Watercress, along with many other kinds of seeds like Jewelweed and Ginseng that need to go through the upcoming winter conditions in order for them to germinate during the spring of 2020.

Even though it was over 90 degrees F. here in the Upstate just a couple of weeks ago and some high temperature records were broken, there have also been first frosts during the month of October. This makes the correct prediction of when colder temperatures will first arrive during the fall season hard to attain. So choose plants to grow that can handle frost at a young age. It is always a good idea to choose an area for fall seed starting that is protected outdoors in a natural sunny microclimate, or against a wall that receives winter sun.


Remember to allow the fallen leaves to cover your garden, then apply a thin layer of plant based composted soil mix over top of the fallen leaves. The covered leaves will provide plenty of food for earthworms and also enhance the bioactivity level within your garden soil as the leaves decay. Both earthworms and a high amount of bioactivity in garden soil are very important within a healthy and productive garden.

Learn more about Andrew Padula and Padula's Plants here or find them on Facebook here.


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