Hands in the Dirt: MLT gardening tips for October

After the mad dash this week to soak up those last few rays of sun and 70-degree days, soon the garden will transition to mostly clean up.

A few annuals can still be planted in the vegetable garden — mostly seeds for overwintering crops like garlic, onions, and peas, that you won’t be able to harvest until spring. Greens can still be transplanted for harvest this fall, and varieties like kale will sweeten up after they’ve been touched by frost.

Take advantage of the nice weather this week to cut down, rake up, and generally dispose of anything that is past its prime, including tomatoes, squash plants and bolting greens. Once your garden is clean, it’s a great time to prep your soil for spring by mulching, either with wood chips, straw, or leaves, or with a living cover crop like clover, that can be chopped down and mixed into the soil in the spring. Even a layer of cardboard can help protect your soil structure from the heavy winter rains.

Are you thinking about spring flowers yet? You should be! Bulbs are now available in stores and should be planted this month for great displays of tulips, daffodils, and crocuses.

If you grew dahlias this year, start thinking about winter storage. With our mild winters in the Puget Sound area, you can often get away with leaving your tubers in the ground if it’s a well-draining area, as long as you cut back the foliage and mulch well. If drainage is poor, tubers can rot over the winter and you may have better success digging them up for winter storage. A dahlia expert once told me told me the secret to success is to dig the tubers after the first frost, dry them for a few days in a ventilated area, dust off excess soil, and store in a perforated bread bag with a handful of vermiculite in a cool, dry location. Don’t forget to label the bag with the variety or you could be in for a surprise next spring!

Have a question about gardening? Ask it on our Facebook page.

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed.  Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain.  Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook  or Instagram.

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?



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