Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 7-8
October 1 to October 30-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
Here’s what’s happening in your gardening region:
October is a transition month for our gardening area. We are starting to have some cooler nights, which means our fall crops including broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, kale, and more, are happier. We can still squeeze out a few more tomatoes, peppers, and other warm-season vegetable harvests, particularly if we use frost protection. (It isn’t that we’re likely to experience many frosts during October, but more that using frost protection can keep some of the heat in to allow summer vegetables to ripen. While getting the last harvests from summer vegetables we’re also planting cool-season vegetables.
Your Regional reporter
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening.
To see what Katie's doing in her garden. Click Here!
1. Learn about gardening in the fall
Some say that fall in zones 7 and 8 is really like a second spring—both in terms of numbers of plants blooming and the amount of work to do. Take advantage of the many gorgeous fall-blooming perennials. If your garden is looking a little bare, plant now! Toward the end of October and early November you’ll need to plant spring-flowering bulbs (also sometimes called “fall bulbs”). It’s also time to finish up putting in your fall and winter vegetable garden.
2. Plant spring-blooming bulbs
Don’t have gardener’s remorse in spring—buy your early-flowering bulbs and plant them now! There is nothing better than seeing the new green leaves poking up out of bare soil in the spring, followed by explosive color. In our growing area tulips can be somewhat hit or miss. Their blooms also tend to fade quickly. For the best spring show, plant daffodils, crocus, and hyacinths. They will all perennialize and come back year after year as well.
3. Learn about improving garden soil
Soil is the literal base for all plant growth, but many gardeners pay no attention to improving the quality, nutrient-holding capacity, or structure of their soil. That’s unfortunate because having good soil is the most important part of growing healthy plants. The best time to improve garden soil is when you’re switching out summer plants for fall plants. You can easily mulch around newly planted plants with compost. Learn about how planting cover crops can help you improve soil health, the importance of soil pH, and ways to get a jump on composting.
4. Plant cool-season vegetables
There’s still plenty of time to plant cool-weather vegetables to harvest for holiday meals and weekday lunches. Nothing beats roasted turnips and carrots from your own garden at the Thanksgiving Table! Don’t delay planting, though. Seeds will germinate more quickly when the soil is still slightly warm. Here are some of our favorite fall veggies. The kale does double-duty as a fabulous ornamental plant, as well.
5. What you need for frost protection and extending the season
Early in October a bit of extra cover will go a long way toward allowing you to continue to harvest tomatoes and peppers that you planted as a second-summer crop. Later in the month and on into November, frost protection will keep your cool season vegetables growing at a good clip so that you can harvest sooner. Here are our best bets.