October's bright blue weather brings many green-thumb chores. Modern homes lack root cellars, so use your garden (nature's root cellar) and leave carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, and Winter Bloomsdale spinach in for the winter. Just before the soil freezes solid, cover root crops with several inches of straw or leaves. Winter Bloomsdale needs no cover. If you didn't grow it this year, make a note for spring. It's good for all seasons. Kale and Brussels sprouts taste better after frost and will stand temperature to 10 degrees F. without damage. Harvest sprouts as needed, starting from bottom and working upward. Cook before they thaw for maximum flavor. Last call for planting garlic. Set cloves in loose soil, spaced 1 inch apart. Mulching is not needed. Some gardeners like to leave fern foliage of asparagus on until spring. Others like to cut it back now before seeds spread. Neighbors who have tops from horseradish (after grinding roots) are happy to give away some so you can start a p atch. Remember, horseradish spreads, so plant it by itself and allow ample room. This is a good month to plant or harvest horseradish. Rotary-till spent garden plants in the soil. Chopped cornstalks break up wintering stages of corn borers. Work shredded debris into soil only if it is free from blight. All such material (plus any wilted vine crops) should be bagged and discarded. Put rodent-proof guards around young fruit and nut trees. Christmas cactus prefers cool room (55 degrees F.) and indirect ligh t. Like poinsettia it blooms on time if it gets no light at night from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. next day.
Frost can be fickle in this region, nipping crops during a cold snap then not returning for a couple of weeks or more. Folks who have late beans, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes keep black plastic, burlap, or old sheets on hand to stretch the growing season of both flowers and vegetables. If you didn't dig sweet potatoes last month, do it now. We remove foliage first so soil can dry up and warm over. Roots are dug easier and much cleaner. Avoid skinning tubers as rot can set in. Don't let bu tternut and other winter squashes get nipped by frost. Pick them with a piece of stem attached and store in frost-free garage. ``Beef up'' your compost pile with a sprinkling of limestone (dolomitic has magnesium and calcium). Add any organic refuse available so fall rains and snow can help break them down over the winter. A little manure added now will generate more heat and hasten the breakdown. Still time to plant hardy lilies, small spring bulbs, tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Pot up some paper-whi te narcissus after mid-October for indoor show around Thanksgiving time. If you have trouble wintering mum plants without heaving, lift them out after bloom and place in a cold frame, or put one layer of evergreen boughs over top. Roses often put on their best show in October. Keep spent blooms picked off, but do not feed, as it will promote new growth which cannot harden off before severe weather comes, causing winter damage. Wrap burlap around newly planted evergreens in windy spots or near white sidin g to prevent burning from sun's rays reflected from house. NEVER use plastic to wrap shrubs (it cuts off oxygen to plants).
Let your cabbage (also Brussels sprouts and kale) be exposed to frost for extra sweetness. The cold period changes starch to sugar. Some gardeners plant early cabbage late in the season to prevent splitting of heads. If you've had trouble with bursting heads, order seeds of Market Prize and Market Topper for next season. These produce tough, natural wrapping leaves which help resist bursting. Red types are also resistant to splitting. They are considered the most cold tolerant of all cabbages, but once pi cked are not good keepers. Use these first. A common mistake is failure to provide abundant water for trees and shrubs, especially evergreens planted less than two years. Don't count on rain doing the job unless the storm is a good soaker. Keep soil moist right up to freezing weather. Roses like fall planting, although probably 75 percent of roses grown in home gardens are spring planted. Keep bushes watered, but don't add nitrogen fertilizer because it pushes out new, tender growth. Now is the time to sh op for mums while you can see varieties in bloom. Region C has wide selection of anemones, quills, spider and feather types, and more. Place protectors around trunks of young fruit and nut trees to discourage rodents and prevent sunscald. Heavy aluminum foil works well if you don't have commercial tree guards. You'll need to gather nuts every day to beat the squirrels. Sow pansy seeds in cold frame for next spring's bloom. Larkspur, bachelor's button, and California and Shirley poppies can be sown in Octo ber for show next summer. Sow where you want them to bloom or in a cold frame for later transplanting. Every serious gardener should have a cold frame. They're simple to build and handy as a shirt pocket.
Be sure to leave stem handles on butternut, acorn, and other winter squash (as well as pumpkins and gourds) for easy handling and better keeping. If you didn't grow gold nugget bush-type squash, make a note to order some seeds for next year. Be sure to store in a frost-free area. There's still time to plant some kale and fast-growing Tokyo Cross Hybrid turnips (45 days). Both are frost hardy (unless cold is extreme) and can be harvested over a long period. Keep pecans picked up. Let them dry thoroughly before storing in the shell. If you shell them, it's best to store in a refrigerator or freezer. Repair thin spots in lawns. Bare spots can be sodded or seeded. New landscape mesh laid over seeding keeps seed from blowing away and helps retain moisture. Keep either seeded or sodded areas moist if nature doesn't provide it. Kentucky bluegrass sown in October or November at the rate of 3 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet gives a satisfactory winter lawn in many areas of Region D. Sow some hardy annuals in a
cold frame or where you want them to grow to get a head start next spring. Try Silene, Cynoglossum (Chinese forget-me-not), bachelor's buttons (Centaurea), Nigella, lavatera, larkspur, Clarkia, annual poppies, Calliopsis, sweet alyssum, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Nemophila (Baby blue eyes). Most insect pests are at a low ebb until next season, giving gardeners time for other chores such as preparing beds for early spring. Work organic matter such as manure and compost into the soil and add a dry fertilizer. Cover crops such as wheat, oats, or winter ryegrass (annual type) can be sown, to be plowed under in spring. Harvest okra now. Pick pods while still young and tender, up until frost. Late-maturing sweet potatoes should have yellowed vines by now, a signal to harvest. Cut vines a few days
beforehand, dig with care, and cure for 10 to 12 days at 80 degrees F., so a callous will form over wounds and starch will change to sugar. Then they will keep best at 55 to 60 degrees F. Jerusalem artichokes are good pickled, raw, or mashed and should be harvested now. It's also time to harvest Jicama (pronounced hee-kah-ma). If you haven't tried this delicious vegetable root, plan to order seeds so you can start them indoors for harvest next fall. One source is: Horticultural Enterprises, PO Box 34082, Dallas, Texas 75234. Sow seeds of radishes, mustard, spinach, turnips, and kale for winter enjoyment. In some areas transplants of cole crops are available. Still time to sow leeks and plant garlic cloves. Divide chives and share some with a friend. Sow parsley for winter and spring use. Renew mulch around camellias and other ornamental shrubs and see that they are kept moist. Order some precooled spring-flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinths), or if not precooled store in a refrigerator for eight
weeks before planting outdoors. Anemones and ranunculus can be planted without chilling.
With coming of cooler weather, gardeners in the Deep South can start another year of digging, sowing, transplanting, and staking of all flowers and vegetables available at garden stores. Cauliflower, a cold ``cole'' crop, has gone Deep South for the winter. New to the Everglades, it has been around for a long time, but not many are planted in home gardens. Set out plants now and you can harvest from mid-December through April. Buy seeds or transplants from local garden stores, as they handle plants especi ally suited to the hot growing conditions of Zone F. Gardeners with some frost liability can plant tomatoes in containers (Burpee Pixie Hybrid and Basket King mature in 52 days) so they can be moved inside during frosty weather. Sugar Bon snap pea will mature in 56 days and will stand light frost. Beets, lettuce, carrots, spinach, and all cole crops will stand mild frosts. Many folks will be doing their last mowing of the season in late October. Frost halts growth of Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia grass i n colder areas of Region F. Set mower no lower than 2 inches. Ground-cover plantings can be done where areas are too shaded for grasses or banks are too steep to mow. The following ground covers will do well in semi-shade or sun and tolerate conditions in all but the southern part of Florida. In fact all of them can be planted in an area encompassing Regions C through most of F: Ophiopogon japonicus (Hardy Lily Turf); Festuca glauca (cultivar Sea Urchin), also called Blue Fescue;MDU L Liriope Muscari; Hedera Helix Baltica (Baltic ivy). One of the best ground covers for this area is Mazus reptans.