Prevent Moss Buildup

As the wet weather returns, moss starts growing again in shaded and other areas which stay constantly moist on top of the soil. Applying “Moss Out” or other moss killing products now, will reduce or prevent this buildup. All the products which are for use around plants contain an iron compound such as iron sulfate. They not only kill moss, but also provide an important nutrient which stimulates chlorophyll production in plants and produces a dark green color. If you have not applied fertilizer this fall, you can apply a combination fertilizer/moss control product. Moss control products for concrete, wood and other surfaces contain zinc instead of iron. Iron stains concrete a rust color, so do not apply plant moss control products to concrete. Let us know if you would like us to apply one of these products for you.

Bargain Trees from Friends of Trees

Friends of Trees is a non profit organization which promotes and subsidizes the planting of trees in most areas of Portland and the city of Vancouver. Large trees which would normally retail for $100 or more are available for $35 to $75. Trees are planted by volunteers during the winter months. If you order a tree or trees, you are encouraged to help with the neighborhood planting under the guidance of skilled leaders. Trees planted within 10 feet of the street must be approved by the urban forestry department. For more information, go to

Bulb Digging and Storage

Many summer flowering bulbs will freeze if left in the ground over winter. Gladiolus, Canna, Ranunculus and Anemone normally survive. Dahlias sometimes survive, but it is safer to dig them. Tuberous Begonias seldom survive unless planted near a building or other protected area.

The best time to dig is after frost has damaged the tops but it has not gotten cold enough to freeze bulbs in the ground. That is usually about late October or November. After digging, cut off the tops leaving an inch or two of stem. Bulbs can be washed with water or simply brushed to remove dirt. They should be air dried a few days in a location where they will not freeze. After drying, stems usually separate easily from the bulbs. Dahlias with multiple tubers can be divided. Make sure each tuber has an attached growing point.

I like to use dry vermiculite or sawdust to store bulbs. This prevents them from drying too much. Best storage temperature is between 35 and 50 degrees F. They can be stored in a refrigerator if there is nothing else which generates humidity.

This is also a good time to divide and replant hardy bulbs such as iris and lilies. Iris should be dug and replanted about every 3 to 4 years. The older, inner rhizomes should be discarded and the outer, newer ones replanted. Tops can be cut back to 4 to 6 inches in length.

Lily bulbs also become too crowded after 3 to 4 years in the same location. Bulbs can be dug up and spaced so they are about 6 inches apart.

Now is also the time to plant hardy, spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Bulbs give the best landscape effect when planted in clusters of at least 6 bulbs. Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in annual flower beds. Then new annual flowers can be planted between the bulbs next spring.

Turn Off Irrigation Systems

By early October we usually get enough rainfall to take care of plant needs. If we do get a dry spell of a week or more, a single manual irrigation may be needed. Irrigation systems should be drained or water blown out of the lines by late October or early November to avoid freeze damage.

Apply Lime

Because of heavy rainfall, Northwest soils are quite acid. Many plants like acid soil but most prefer a more neutral soil condition. Most lawns, fruits, flowers, bulbs and vegetables will benefit by a yearly application of lime or similar soil sweetening products which contain calcium. Up to 5 pounds per 1000 square feet can be applied. Rhododendron, Azalea, Camellia, Heather, Mountain Laurel, Magnolia, Holly, Dogwood, Andromeda, Leucothoe, Blueberry and Raspberry are some major plants which prefer acid soil and should not be treated with lime.

Still Plenty of Time to Plant

October is an ideal time to plant or transplant lawns, bulbs, trees, shrubs, perennial flowers, and winter vegetables such as kale, collards, onions, spinach and carrots. If you have a south facing window, greenhouse, sun room, or high intensity lights, you could also grow herbs such as basil, oregano, sage, parsley and cilantro in containers.

Take Time to Enjoy the Fall Color

It is usually work that gets me out into my yard. But I do take time while I am there to look closely at the newly opened flowers or dew on the leaves. I like to sample my vegetables raw, even the ones most people never consider eating uncooked, like beans and squash. I like to pick little bouquets of flowers to bring inside. Even the short stemmed bedding flowers that only last a day or two can be enjoyed inside as much as outside.

We live in an area where we have an abundance of nature within easy walking or driving distance. I love to hike in the mountains or stroll down the streets or through the parks. Wherever I drive, I have the habit of stopping to look at and take pictures of attractive trees, shrubs and flowers. The leaves have already started to turn on deciduous trees. Take the time to stop and look closely at them.