October Garden To Do and Crabapple Recipe

Gardening Notes by Tomese Buthod, Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener



Vegetable and Ornamental Gardening


October Gardening Activities Calendar and To-Do list

   "But in October what a feast to the eye our woods and groves present! The whole body of the air seems enriched by their calm, slow radiance. They are giving back the light they have been absorbing from the sun all summer."
     ~John Burroughs, "The Falling Leaves," Under the Maples  

  • Begin moving houseplants indoors when nighttime temperatures start dipping into the fifties. Check for insects and treat where needed.
  • Harvest pumpkins and winter squash when their rinds cannot be easily damaged with a fingernail.
  • Spray around the perimeter of your house to keep insects and spiders outside.
  • Continue to mow the lawn to at least 2 inches high.
  • Collect seeds while plants are dry.
  • Make sure new plantings are kept moist.
  • There is still time to plant pansies, mums, ornamental cabbages & kales.
  • Cutback and remove dead raspberry canes of June-bearing types.
  • Fertilize your lawn and repeat every 6 weeks until the ground freezes.
  • Did you know that the clove-like aroma of basil is from the oil eugenol, which is also found in (what else?) cloves?
  • After cleaning off beds apply fresh manure so it can winter over.
  • Test soil for next year's garden. The Extension office is at 810 Barret Ave, and soil tests are $7.  The soil lab closes Dec. 1.
  • Be on the lookout for the striped larva of the swallowtail butterfly which is feeding on parsley now. Parsley is a biennial that will flower and die first thing next season, so harvest it soon. 
  • After the first light frost cut back and dig up dahlias and tuberous begonias.
  • Stack your firewood off of the ground and away from the house.
  • The time you spend cleaning your garden will reduce disease and insect problems next year.
  • After harvesting sage leaves, add stems to the compost to speed bacterial activity and decomposition.
  • Dig and divide rhubarb and chives as needed.
  • *****Keep adding to your compost pile but don't compost tomato plants unless you are sure they are disease free.******
  • Pot up amaryllis now for holiday bloom.
  • Plant new trees and shrubs. Be sure to consult U of K's list of plants that should not be planted in the fall.
  • Do a fall pantry cleaning so you do not have any winter infestations.
  • Mulch perennial beds for winter. Keep mulch away from the crowns.   Remember – you don’t want “volcanoes” of mulch around the base of trees – you are just providing a home for burrowing rodents who will chew on the bark.
  • After roses have lost their leaves, mound with well-draining compost.
  • Clean and oil tools for winter storage.
  • Clean your gutters!


"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." Elizabeth Lawrence



I feel a little funny extolling the delights of crab apples since I don’t think any of our market farmers sell them, but I have just discovered them and feel I must share.  My friends Nancy and Martha work in the Portland neighborhood, and the grounds of the building have several crab apple trees.  They were eating lunch outside a few days ago, and noticed how loaded the trees are.  They decided to taste one, and ended up picking about 10 lbs in just a few minutes!   We’ve been having a lot of fun making different things with them – you can do anything with them that you use regular apples for.


Martha made an apple crisp using only the crab apples, and Nancy and I’ve made apple sauce and are about to try jelly.  The apple sauce is the most beautiful pink color without adding anything.  I made an apple pie and put several of the crab apples in with the other cooking apples I had on hand (from various farmers at our wonderful market.)  Another friend of mine who is quite the applesauce lover said it was the best applesauce she has ever eaten!


Some things to note about working with crab apples

They are extremely tart; in fact, they are quite astringent if you eat them raw.  I like my apple desserts to be tart, so I put very little sugar in them.  But you will need to taste to your own preference and add sugar, honey, maple syrup (maybe sorghum?) as you need to.


They don’t seem to be bothered by worms like “normal” apples.  I’ve now picked them from several trees around the neighborhood, and not a one of them has had any worms, and I know these trees have not been sprayed with anything.


They are VERY hard – so you need a very sharp knife.  A small knife is best since the apples are only about one inch in diameter.  The stems do not want to pull out, so I cut off a little slice of the stem end to remove the stem, and then a little slice off the bottom to remove the blossom stub.  Then cut them in quarters so you can easily slice off the tiny core.   


The seeds do have a tiny amount of cyanide, and if you eat about ½ cup of the seeds you will get very sick.  If a few seeds don’t removed as you are trimming the apples, you will not get sick.  One half cup of these seeds is from a LOT of apples, believe me!    


Crab Apple Sauce recipe


I trimmed about 6 lbs of apples as described above and put them in a large, heavy pot with one cup of water and cinnamon stick.  I cooked them on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, until they were very soft.  I removed the cinnamon stick, and then ran them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins, and put the puree back in the pot with about ½ cup sugar, heating until the sugar was fully dissolved and mixed into the sauce.  That was the perfect taste for me and my friend, but you may want it sweeter, and you may want to add some cinnamon candies if you like a stronger cinnamon flavor.   From the 6 lbs of apples, I got 9 half-pints of applesauce, which I canned in a hot water bath.   



As always, If you’ve got gardening questions, call the Jefferson Co. Cooperative Extension at 502-569-2344.  Download or print the latest version of the Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky booklet at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf  This tool is invaluable as you plan your garden – no matter if you are a seasoned gardener or a first-timer.  You can send questions to me at tomese.buthos@gmail.com about your vegetables and I’ll do my best to answer, but I can’t swear that I’ll be super timely with a response – if the weather is decent I’m in the garden and nowhere near my computer!