Vegetables: It is a good time to plant garlic bulbs at the end of October or beginning of November. Many garden centers and catalogs have good selections. Select large, firm heads of cloves and break them up into individual cloves. The bigger the clove, the stronger the resulting plant will be. Plant them about 5 inches apart and 2 inches deep with the pointy “nose” end facing up. Mulch lightly with straw. Garlic prefers well-drained, rich organic soil; it will not do well in very heavy clay.
Now is also a good time to rejuvenate your rhubarb plants via root division. Try to divide the plants into groups with several crowns (two-three is a good number) in each clump. Replant and water in the divisions promptly.
Don’t cut back your asparagus until it is brown. Even then, be sure to leave a foot or so of stems and foliage. Research has shown that the stems help protect the crowns over winter. An exception to this rule is if you had rust disease in the foliage — then it should be removed to help prevent spores from overwintering and re-infecting the spears in spring.
Summer-flowering bulbs: Dig up cannas, gladiolas and dahlias after frost when the foliage dies back to store them inside over winter. Dig cannas after the tops die and let them dry for a few days. Shake off and remove as much soil as you can so they dry well. Once dry, cut the tops back to about 3-4 inches and leave them attached to the rhizome. Store cannas in a cool, moderately dry area with good air circulation. Putting them in mesh bags from potatoes or oranges works well. Temperatures should not get above 55 degrees or below 40 degrees.
Gladiola corms produce small bulblets called “cormels” on the underside of the corm as they get older. They will come up in a clump attached to the stem. Dig gladiolas after frost. Discard any corms that are not sound, and gently shake off the loose soil. Cut the tops down to about 2 inches and let the corms dry for a few days. You can separate larger cormels from the corms if you desire at this time. They will take a couple of seasons to produce plants big enough to bloom. After drying, it is best to “cure” the corms at a temperature of 80-85 degrees for two to three weeks so they will store more successfully. It can be challenging to find a place to do this in October! A warm dry attic or sunroom may work. After curing, break the old, dried corm from the base of the new one, as it will no longer grow and may rot over winter and discard it. Two to three more days at curing temperature and a corky layer will form at the scar. Gladiola corms can be stored in open paper bags or cloth or mesh bags. Make sure there is good air circulation and don’t stack the corms too deep in the paper or cloth bags. Store them at 40 degrees in a dry area like a cool basement.
Dig dahlia tubers after frost as well. Cut the stems back to about 4 inches being careful not to injure the tubers — especially the area at the base of the old stem. This is where the small swellings that are the buds for next year (called “eyes”) are located. Shake soil off gently and divide the tubers shortly after digging. Each tuber must have at least one eye with it — the tubers themselves are only storage organs and won’t produce stems without the eye tissue. Dry the tubers for a few hours and store in a cool dry area at about 50 degrees. They may desiccate if it is too dry, so wrap them in newspapers or pack in barrels or boxes of peat moss, or dry sawdust for best results.