Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

As summer fades and passes and October comes, we’ll smell wood smoke then, and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure.” – Thomas Wolfe

We had our first frosts but not serious ones since my impatiens and peppers look nice. The hard frosts will creep up on us when we least expect them. I’m still picking tomatoes and zucchini, a couple of cucumbers, some turnips and the last three peppers. This week I’m planting spinach that I hope will winter over. The spinach should survive with a good snow cover.

In my research I have concluded that onions, garlic and leeks are unheralded super foods. They have high levels of quercetin, an antioxidant compound known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties. Red onions are the highest in antioxidants but they all contain them. Antioxidants slow cell damage. Onions also contain biotin which supports skin and nerve health along with cell and digestive health. Onions contain copper which increases the absorption of iron and potassium which helps to counteract sodium. They have folate which is good for red and white blood cells. I could go on and on about the great benefits of onions. For more information on these healthy vegetables visit the Columbia University website. I use onions every day in my cooking because the family loves them and they add so much flavor to cooked foods.

October is the month to fertilize trees. The best time is when they start to change colors. If you fertilize your lawn once a year, do it now. If you fertilize twice a year, October and June is best. If you fertilize the lawn three times per year, then October, early June and September. I usually start watering evergreens in October but we have had such a rainy season that I think they will be okay; but certain ones I protect with burlap to prevent winter wind damage. These trees include yews, true holly, Daphne and any small, newly planted evergreens. It is also the time to put wire around fruit trees to keep rabbits and mice from nibbling. Bury the wire at least an inch underground so nothing can crawl under the wire. The damage these animals do to trees cannot be fixed and can kill young trees. Rake up any fallen fruit to prevent future disease and insects.

Fall is a great time to amend clay or sandy soils. Amending soil is very important because soil structure governs the retention and movement of water that transports fertilizers and other nutrients to plants. Soil can be enhanced by organic matter such as mowed leaves, newspaper and kitchen waste.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.