Saturday, September 28, 2019

October Garden Tasks

October is an outstanding time of the year for gardens and gardeners. The soil is still warm, but air temperatures are much more pleasant. New plants love the warm soil; gardeners love the 70-degree days. Here are a few garden tasks that are perfect for this month in the Central Valley, East Bay and low foothills of Northern and Central California.
Chinese Pistache

Gingko biloba
Early October:
• This is a great time for planting new trees and shrubs, especially ones with outstanding fall foliage for our area. Good specimens include the Chinese pistache, Washington hawthorn, Japanese maple and Amur maple for typical lot sizes; the "October Glory" red maple, ginkgo, red oak and scarlet oak for larger lots.
• Reduce the frequency of lawn irrigations to once a week. Turn off the sprinkler timer when it rains.
• Feed roses one more time to keep the blooms coming through the fall.
• Don't let your summer vegetable garden go bare. Plant a winter cover crop such as vetch, fava beans or clover to help replenish the soil with nitrogen.
• Vegetables to plant from seed now include radish, spinach, and peas.
•Dethatch, aerate and overseed bermuda grass lawns with rye grass to keep it green all winter.
•Cool season lawns, such as the popular fescue blends, are putting on a spurt of growth now. Mow often so that you are never removing more than a third of the total height of the grass blade.
•Nurseries have a good supply of winter blooming annuals in supply this month; also, select onion sets now for your vegetable garden.
•This is a good time to plant ground covers. This will give their root systems a chance to get established for their burst of spring growth.
• Dealing with the possibility of drought: Looking to upgrade your sprinkler control system? Choose one that will turn your sprinklers off when it rains. Also, newer systems will adjust the run times based on the season as well as soil moisture content.

Tomato Hornworm Cocoon
Lawn Aerator, Dethatcher

 • Tomato hornworms are going into hibernation in the soil beneath your tomato plants. Dig down about four inches and discard their cocoons, which resemble two inch-long, reddish footballs.
• Mid-October is your last, best chance to dethatch, aerate and overseed a sad looking lawn for the year.
• Despite the cooler temperatures, your lawn and garden still need about an inch of water a week. Unless the rains come, keep your automatic sprinklers operating.
• After you've cleared out the dying summer vegetables, improve the soil for next year's garden by checking the acidity/alkalinity with a pH test kit. They’re available at just about every nursery.
• Putting on a garden show currently: “Autumn Joy” sedum, with its reddish-pink, umbrella-shaped flowers. This herbaceous perennial gets about 18 inches tall and wide.

“Autumn Joy” sedum

Sasanqua Camellia

Late October:
• Scatter and plant tulip and daffodil bulbs outdoors for a more natural look.
• Add some indoor color for the upcoming holiday seasons by planting bulbs now in containers.
• Now in bloom: the sasanqua camellia. This variety can take more sun than the japonica camellia, which blooms in late winter.
• Protect rhododendron and azalea roots during the winter by adding two or three inches of mulch beneath those plants.
• Available now at nurseries: colorful winter blooming annuals such as violas, calendulas, stock, Iceland poppies and snapdragons.
• Temperatures dipping down below freezing can occur here in early November. Prepare for that possibility by moving frost-sensitive potted plants next to the house or indoors.
• Row covers, hot caps, and water-filled containers surrounding young vegetable seedlings offer these plants a warmer nighttime environment.
• Prepare for the rainy season by knocking down watering basins around trees.
• Wait until we get two or three rainstorms in a row before scattering wildflower seeds. In the meantime, remove the weeds in that area.