I have a love/hate relationship with monthly Colorado gardening chores. There are days when I’m out there sweating and grunting and thinking, “Why do I do this?” Then other days I love the hard work. I always love planting seeds and pruning and harvesting. But I don’t always love hauling dirt, mowing or turning over hard clay soil. But, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
This is a new page for Colorado Backyard Gardener. Over the next year I will add to it, making suggestions and adding the ones you give me to this month-to-month chore guide. It will be particular to Colorado, what chores us Front Range gardeners typically do in any given month.
As I add to this page, I will work to keep it arranged and organized in a manner that is accessible to my readers. For now, I start with a few bullet points of what is happening in my own backyard in October/November.
October/November Colorado Gardening Chores
It’s an odd feeling when it is time to engage in October/November backyard gardener chores. Part of me is really ready to do it all. I kind of (just kind of) want to put it all away and let the first (or next) snowfall come. After all the spring and summer digging, planting, watering and tending it feels like it is time to rest. After all the responding to things like nasty leaf eating beatles and moldy leaf spots, I’m feeling the need to cease fire.
It’s fall. I can hear my own advice, “Be done now Laura. Instead of going outside to play, now is the time of year when you can go inside to play.” Rest.
I do not know how I really feel. But I do know it is time to do this THING called “Monthly Colorado Gardening Chores”. So, here is a list of what the Flanders’ will be doing in the next couple weeks. Please comment below, adding what you are doing this time of year and I will update this page, giving you credit of course.
- Raking leaves. We live in an older established neighborhood. Our neighbors own cottonwood trees that hang, not into their yard, but into ours. I’ll say no more about THAT. Our first order of business is to put a bag on our mower and mow over the leaves, catching as many in the bag as we are able. We pile these mulched leaves into various mounds in my vegetable garden. Over the winter I turn these piles 7-8 times and watch them turn to gold. Since we use only organic fertilizer on our lawn, we also add some of the grass clippings caught in our final mowing, turning this into the pile of leaves.
- Unless I want seeds to drop from dead annuals/flowers, I pull from the ground the annuals that have died back. Otherwise I harvest and store seeds that I want to share or use the coming season.
- Cut back (to the ground) most all my herbaceous (leafy) perennials. I do, however, allow some of the herbaceous perennials to remain for a few months for two reasons: (1) I might like the way a particular plant catches the snow, and (2) a particular plant may have a dried flower that drops some of its seeds. I have learned that some of our winters are mild enough that seeds from an annual plant may germinate the following spring. This, however, is rare.
- I leave my grasses to be pruned in mid-March. Why? They like it that way and they are pretty in the snow.
- I leave my small woody perennials to be pruned in either early spring, mid spring or early summer. Now is not the time to prune small woody perennials because there is not enough warm weather ahead that will allow the plant to produce a callus over the wound left by the cut.
- Late fall and early winter is often a great time to prune some of your larger woody perennials such as trees and certain bushes. Planttalk Colorado at the Colorado State University is a great reference site for many things, including what trees and shrubs to prune and when. Click here for that site.
- I do not prune subshrubs in the fall. Subshrubs like lavender and sage do not like being pruned to the ground. Unfortunately, for many years I did not know this, killing many lavender and sage plants in my garden. Click here to learn more about pruning subshrubs.
- In most all my beds I lay down a thin layer of aged manure in most of my flower beds. While fresh manure can be used and allowed to age over the winter, I have decided to only use aged manure primarily because it is easier for me to obtain and it is cheap, only $1.75 a bag at Home Depot
- Our CBG friend Shelley reminded me to get those fall bulbs in if I haven’t done so already (this would include tulips, crocus, hyacinth, daffodils, allium, garlic). Some sites say to plant them late September. But I’ve planted flower bulbs as late as November and they come up in the spring. Do wait until late October to plant garlic. Go here for more info on planting fall bulbs.
- If you have fruit trees and have allowed fruit to drop and begin rotting on the ground below, be sure to pick up all the rotting fruit — apples especially. Why? If any of your fruit was infested with worms/maggots, picking them up, bagging them and throwing them out will keep the larvae from sitting in the ground, overwintering there and then waking up to infest your tree next year. This simple cleanup can help you grow more robust healthy fruit (organically) the following year your tree produces.
- At the end of November, wait for a warmer 40 degree day. Go out and turn and churn the compost piles you made in late October/early November. By now there has probably been some snow and that moisture should be put to good use, turning it into the leaf piles you made.
What needs to be added to this list for October/November? Please share below and I will add it. Let’s learn from each other.