October Gardening Tips
for the Willamette Valley

by Rod Smith

Former Iowa Certified Nurseryman and
Oregon Certified Nursery Professional

© 2002-2023 Rodney A. Smith
All rights reserved.


Spring flowering bulbs can be planted now through November. Plant in well drained soil amended with sand or Profile Soil Conditioner. Add Bonemeal or Bulb Food.

Dig and divide crowded bulbs and perennials to increase stock and improve their bloom for next year.

Pansies or Flowering Cabbage and Kale can be planted over bulbs for winter color.

Mums, Japanese Anemones and Autumn Joy Sedum can be planted now for fall color.

Plant cool season vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower from starts. Garlic and onion bulbs can also be planted.

Plant empty vegetable gardens to a fall cover crop such as annual ryegrass, crimson clover, Austrian Peas, fava beans or common vetch. They will protect the soil from erosion and add organic matter to the soil when they are tilled under in the spring.

Early October is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Evergreen trees and shrubs may be planted in late October if the weather stays warm, but watch out for early freezing weather. Deciduous trees and shrubs can be planted all winter if the soil is workable.


Early October is an excellent time to plant lawns. Lawns may be planted in late October if the weather stays warm. Sod can be laid all winter if the soil is workable.

Set mowing height a half inch shorter each time you mow until it is set to 1.5-2 inches. This shorter mowing height will reduce diseases during rainy weather.

Aerating the lawn will help the grass tolerate soggy soil from winter rain. Then mow the lawn to break up the plugs. Finally, spread sand or Profile Soil Conditioner and rake it into the holes with a leaf rake to keep them open.

Apply a Fall and Winter fertilizer. Also apply lime so the winter rains will carry it deep into the soil. See Preferred Soil pH for more information.

Apply moss control in shady areas before the moss crowds out the grass.


Cut off old flowers of Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) so the seeds will not become weeds. Overgrown deciduous plants can be cut back to several inches tall.


Beneficial nematodes should be applied before mid-month around rhodies, azaleas and other plants with notches on the leaves from root weevils to prevent the root weevil larvae from killing the roots. Root weevils also attack hemlocks, heuchera, and sedum.

Check pine trees for globs of pitch on the trunk and branches. If the pitch is off-white or gray, then it is from an old wound. But if the pitch is pink, then it is caused by pine pitch moth larvae feeding on the tree. Larvae are up to 1 inch long and white with a light brown head. Scrape all of the pink pitch from the tree and get rid of it.

Garden Cleanup

Many insects and diseases over winter on fallen leaves and dead stems. A thorough cleanup in the fall will reduce or eliminate problems next year. Prune out dead or diseased wood on trees and shrubs. Rake up fallen leaves. They can be composted, but it is best to send diseased leaves to recycling.

A quick and easy way to cut back perennials is to set a mulching mower at the highest setting and mow over the flower beds. Perennials are cut back and mulched at the same time.

Compost Pile

Instead of raking leaves, I use my lawn mower to bag them. I also set the mower height a half inch lower each time I mow in October. The mowed leaves and the extra grass clippings comprise most of my compost pile each Fall. However, oak leaves and walnut leaves do not make good compost because of natural chemicals they contain.
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