October is the perfect time to plant trees, shrubs, conifers, and hardy perennials—or spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils—and if you’re looking to sow cover crops or install lawns, now is the time for that as well.
Portland Nursery is always stocked up with fresh plants and seeds to help make your fall gardening goals a reality.
It’s also time to start cleaning the garden, protecting fall vegetables and preparing for frosts, but we’ll get into all that a little more below!
See this page for the average frost dates in our area: Frost Dates.
Repurpose fallen leaves! Leaves can be used either for composting or as mulch in garden beds. If you are mulching with them, consider shredding them with the lawnmower or other tool first. Whole-leaf mulch is a slug friendly environment, and doesn’t protect the roots quite as well.
Late October or November is a good time for mulching in general. While your leaves are great, you can also use compost, bark, straw, or other materials. Please see our Fall Soil Maintenance Page for some detailed tips on mulching.
Mulch should only cover the roots and should never be piled up around stems or tree trunks. This can potentially cause damage or rot of the bark and underlying tissues.
We love conifers at Portland Nursery. Tall, soft, dwarf or prickly we eagerly anticipate their arrival every fall when they fill our nurseries with bright colors and interesting textures.
Deciding on the right ones can be tricky, so we've compiled a guide to help you make decisions.
By now, some of your annuals may be looking a little tired, but there are plenty of options to replace them with colorful, cool-season annuals—pansies, chrysanthemums, asters, ornamental cabbage and kale are available to bring some color back into your garden.
Geraniums and tender fuchsias may still look nice, but will need protection from freezing weather soon if you don’t want to lose them.
October is one of the best months to plant hardy perennials and herbs. Many are looking great now including toad lily (Tricyrtis), hardy cyclamen, and Japanese anemones, as well as evergreen perennials like Heuchera, rosemary, and lavender. Here’s a handy calendar to help with planning: Perennial Bloom Calendar.
Almost any hardy perennial can be planted now, and most can be divided or moved with little risk of loss. If you are thinking about moving Iris or peonies, it’s time for that too! Keep in mind that moving plants can sometimes mean sacrificing the flowers for the next year, or possibly longer.
It is also one of the best times for starting a new ground cover or propagating/ dividing an existing one. While it may not spread too much in the next month or so, it will root in over winter and get a head start in spring.
It is bulb planting season if there ever was one! This is the prime time to be planting new tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and much more for spring flowers. Learn about soil prep and proper planting depth on our Bulbs Page.
There are autumn bloomers that you can only get this time of year such as colchicum and autumn crocus, including the saffron crocus. Paperwhites and Amaryllis are forcing bulbs for indoor winter color, and can be started now or over the next couple of months.
Finish harvesting warm season veggies like green beans, corn, tomatoes and potatoes. There are great harvesting pointers on our September Tips page, please check it out. Apples, pears, fall raspberries and kiwi are potentially ready for harvest as well.
Many of these crops can be stored for winter consumption, most notably potatoes, squash, apples and pears. Root crops like carrots and beets can be stored in the ground or in another cool location.
It’s time to clean up finished veggie and fruit beds. Much of the debris left in the garden after summer can be added to a compost pile or bin, but diseased leaves, stems or fruit should be disposed of and not added to compost.
If your strawberries have grown into a thick ground cover, you should probably thin it out. They fruit better in subsequent years if divided and replanted with room to grow.
Raspberry canes that produced fruit this year will not produce again next year, so they should be pruned all the way down to the ground.
Planting and Extending the Season
Bok Choi, overwintering cabbage, kale, chard and other salad greens can still be planted from starts in October, but it’s too late for planting seeds.
Frosts can occur in October, but November is more likely in Portland. Still, adding season extenders like row cover, cloches or cold frames help to keep frost off of leaves and create a warmer environment under the cover. Watch for slug damage on your greens, as always.
Now is also the best time to plant cover crops. Any garden bed that will not be in use until spring is a good candidate for cover crops that can protect against erosion, add nutrients to the soil, fix nitrogen and support pollinators. Learn more on our Cover Crops Page.
With temperatures moderate again, it is an excellent time for planting any hardy trees and shrubs. Your soil should be workable if it is moderately moist. Generally, planting now versus. next spring results in better roots before next summer, which is often the hardest season on recent plantings.
October to November is usually the best time for moving established shrubs if you feel you have to. Note that this is difficult for plants, and isn't exactly recommended -- even this time of year. If the plant is small or recently planted you are more likely to have success.
Note that any tender trees or shrubs (such as Citrus, and most Hibiscus and Gardenia) will need protection from freezing and you will need to move them in or otherwise protect them soon. Follow the links to care sheets for each of the above plants.
It is not quite pruning season yet. Enjoy the fall color, and then consider which trees may need pruning later on. See the tips pages for subsequent months, or our Pruning Guide page or downloard our pruning guide. You can also download our pruning calendar for more information.
Now is a good time to:
Please see our page on installing a seed lawn for more information. Be sure to keep the area moist as October can sometimes be a dry month.
The best time to fertilize the lawn has passed, but if you missed feeding in September you can still fertilize using a granular organic food.
Visit individual month pages for gardening ideas. Pages are regularly updated with projects for that month.