There is still plenty to plant in October. Many flowers and vegetables can be planted to appear next spring and summer. A little planning now can help get flower beds blooming earlier and crops ready sooner.
I spent many years working in public parks in the UK that were open to visitors all year round. The displays of plants and crops are planned in advance to ensure there is something people will be interested in seeing throughout 12 months of the year, meaning our growing season extends into the fall.
What can you plant in October?
There are lots of options for plants starting in October, which can be used in a whole range of garden ideas. Whether you’re planning flower beds for next spring or thinking ahead to next year’s vegetable garden, cool fall soil is a good time to sow seeds. We’re taking a closer look at some of the best flowers and vegetables to plant in October.
1. Sweet peas
This home garden favorite is very popular and is one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. If you want to grow sweet peas, the good news is that there is a wide range of colors you can grow and they are very versatile, and can be grown in the ground or as part of any gardening ideas.
Sweet peas can be planted in the fall or spring, and October is a great time to start if you want to grow sweet peas. Seeds planted in the fall will get off to a strong start in the pleasant autumn warmth indoors, but will need protection over the winter in a greenhouse or cold frame. However, the advantage you get is earlier flowering and sturdier plants than those planted in spring. By continuing to pinch them back, they will become bushy plants once it is time to harden off the seedlings in spring, before planting out sweet peas once the danger of frost has passed.
View the selection of sweet pea seeds available at True Leaf Market
Cornflowers are a gorgeous annual flower that are great if you are planning a cut flower garden, while they are also often seen as part of wildflower garden ideas. Cornflower seeds are often part of mixtures sold to people who want to plant a wildflower meadow. The plants come in a range of colors, including shades of pink and dark red as well as the classic cornflower blue.
If you live in a harsh region of the United States with mild winters, planting cornflowers in October can help you get larger plants and earlier flowers come next year. Cornflowers can tolerate light frost, so young plants can survive mild winters. However, if you have cold winters, it may be best to wait until early or mid-spring to plant cornflowers for summer display – they are a great choice for planting flowers in March.
Cornflowers can be planted either directly in the ground or in pots and cover lightly with soil, as the seeds are small and do not want to be buried deeply.
Buy cornflower seeds from Burpee
Alliums are stunning plants, with their long stems and statues topped with large pom-pom flowers. These spring bulbs are planted in the fall for spring and can be the star of the show in beds or borders, or they can be used as accent flowers that stand tall and proud in pots. They can reach over a meter in height, and in shades of purple, pink, blue or white, there are allium species available for any style of backyard idea.
Planting time for allium bulbs is from September to October, ideally at least six weeks before the first frost. Alliums are one of the best spring bulbs to plant in the fall and are also great perennials to plant in the fall, as they are thought to give you four years of flowering after you plant them. Just as when you plant bulbs in the fall, you want to plant them at a depth three times the depth of the bulb.
See the selection of allium bulbs available for purchase at Dutch Grown
Jellyfish, also known as Spring primroseIt is a perennial shade plant and is great for anyone with a dark spot in their garden. Growing only 10 inches tall, cowslips produce gorgeous yellow flowers on tall, upright stems atop clumps of toothed leaves.
Cowslips are native to Europe, but are also commonly seen in large parts of eastern North America. Plants can be sown from seed in October and the seeds need a period of cool weather to break dormancy. Sow the seeds directly in the garden about six weeks before the first frost, so the plant can establish roots in the warmer fall soil before winter arrives.
Once established, cowslips will put on a display of lemon blossoms in mid-to-late spring and will self-seed around the garden. Cowslips are a woodland plant that would work in any border or rock garden, or be used as edging at the side of paths or at the front of beds.
October is the perfect time to plant garlic in the kitchen garden. Garlic comes in hard and soft varieties, and many bulbs need a period of coolness, about 30-60 days of temperatures at 32-50 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes late fall or early winter an ideal time to put bulbs in the ground if you want to grow garlic. If you want to plant elephant garlic, October is also a good time to plant it.
Garlic is grown in the ground in vegetable gardens, but you can also successfully grow garlic in pots. The garlic cloves should be separated from the garlic bulb, pushed into the ground and covered with at least an inch of soil. Although there is a good selection of garlic bulbs that can be grown, you should not grow garlic from grocery store garlic – these bulbs are often treated with chemicals to prevent growth and can bring diseases into the garden.
View the range of garlic bulbs available at Nature Hills
6. Corn salad
Corn salad, also known as lamb’s lettuce or paste lettuce, is a hardy salad leaf that can be harvested throughout the winter to add to salads. It’s a little-known vegetable and is an ideal cool-season crop if you want to grow vegetables in a greenhouse in the fall – while they can also thrive successfully outdoors to be harvested during the colder months as corn salad can withstand very low temperatures.
The seeds can germinate at temperatures as low as 50 degrees F, so they are ideal for planting in the fall. It has a mild flavor and salad corn can be harvested as individual leaves, or the entire head can be cut off with sharp pruning shears or a knife for regrowth. You can purchase Dutch broadleaf corn salad seeds from True Leaf Market.
October is the ideal time to plant many types of onions. Overwintering onion varieties can be planted in the fall to produce an earlier crop than spring-planted onions, about 4-6 weeks earlier. In the fall, the soil is warm enough to plant onions and allow them to get a good start and put out roots before winter. They will go dormant over the winter and then be ready to grow quickly once the weather warms in the spring.
You can grow onions from seeds or from sets, and there are pros and cons to both methods. Using sets, which are essentially small bulbs, is the easiest way to grow onions, and varieties planted in the fall will be ready to harvest in early summer next year. If your soil type is heavy, or the ground is waterlogged, it is best to postpone and plant in the spring because rot may be a problem.
See the range of onion seeds and kits available at Burpee
What to plant in October for winter color?
There are great options for planting plants in the ground in October to provide a little color in a winter garden. This can include flowering shrubs such as Skimmia, pyracantha or Sarcococca to provide bright color during the cold season. Also, planting the likes of pansies, ornamental hellebores or even ornamental cabbage can help brighten up the garden at a quiet time of year.
There are plenty of options available for fall planting. Do some research and check your local garden centers and nurseries, or visit online retailers, to see the wide variety of flowers and vegetables you can plant in October.