Ralph Anderson

All you need to know this month. 

Cooler temperatures in the South make gardening that more enjoyable. Play it smart and make all that hard work worth it with this checklist of what to plant, water, harvest, and store.

Plant

This is a great month to set out just about everything but tender annuals. Buy and plant spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips while the selection is still good. Set out cool-weather annuals like pansies, violas, snapdragons, poppies, and ornamental cabbage and kale. Plant trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials now too. Even when they’ve gone dormant aboveground, their roots will grow through the winter, giving them a head start next year.

Water

October is dry in most of the South. So don’t think that just because it’s cooler now that plants don’t need moist soil. Water new plantings a couple of times a week until your first fall freeze. Water cool-season lawns like Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue regularly. Don’t let your evergreens go into the winter dry. Because these plants keep their foliage, dry soil in cold weather can cause serious damage that you’ll discover next spring.

WATCH: How to Pick the Best Tomato Plants

Harvest

When frost threatens, immediately pick all tomatoes still on the vines. Some will be green, presenting you with a choice: You can enjoy fried green tomatoes, or you can store and ripen them indoors. To do the latter, wash the fruit and dry it completely. Set the tomatoes in a cardboard box so they don’t touch each other. Store in a dark room at about 60 degrees. To hasten ripening, add an apple or banana to the box. The fruit will release ethylene gas, which will speed up the process.

Start Digging

Dig and store tender plants that aren’t winter hardy in your area. Depending on where you live, these may include dahlia, gladiolus, canna, elephant’s ear, ginger lily, caladium, and banana plant.