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October Gardening Checklist

October Gardening Checklist
By Ron Vanderhoff - Nursery Manager

Fellow Gardeners, The information, dates and techniques in this are as accurate as I can currently offer. During the past three decades I have cared for, nurtured and observed tens of thousands of plants. With the help of many gardening friends I have attempted to offer on these pages some useful information to help you with your own garden. Gardening is sharing. Any corrections, comments or suggestions are appreciated and will improve future information.

(See also Sweet Peas and Wildflowers)

• This is the first real month for putting in cool-season annuals. The soil is still rather warm, but the temperatures are cooling off, making this a perfect planting month.

• There is still a good chance of some warm days and even drying Santa Ana winds, so keep newly planted annuals well watered until they are thoroughly rooted.

• Cool-season annuals to install now include pansy, viola, stock, Iceland poppy, linaria, English daisy, alyssum, calendula, snapdragon, ornamental cabbage and kale, bedding cyclamen, primrose and cineraria.

• Because of their quick growth and heavy flowering potential, annuals need more fertilizing than most other plants in the garden.
• Keep deadheading (removing spent flowers) from annuals to help them continue blooming abundantly.

• For instant color, garden mums can still be planted.

• Don’t be alarmed by a lot of leaf drop on mature plants. Avocados produce a lot of leaf litter nearly year round. This is a normal condition.
• Irrigate as needed to keep the soil moist, but not wet.

• It’s really too late to plant an avocado successfully this year. Being sub-tropical plants, avocados prefer to be planted during the long warm part of the year.

• Many varieties may have fruit ready to harvest. Remember that avocado fruit does not ripen on the tree; it must be removed and should ripen indoors at room temperature.
• Avocados are about done putting on any new growth this year. Do not feed at all this month.

• Be sure to keep a very thick blanket of mulch, compost or fallen leaves under mature avocados at all times. Avocados need a cool root-run for good health.

• Most avocados are out of season for at least a couple of months now. A mid-season variety, like ‘’Reed’ or ‘Mexicola’ may have fruit ready to harvest. Remember that avocado fruit does not ripen on the tree; it must be removed and should ripen indoors at room temperature.

• Continue to keep azaleas well irrigated in the warm weather.

• Azaleas are shallow rooted and dry out quickly. Do not cultivate or allow other plants to grow under or in competition with the roots of your azalea.

Bearded Iris:
• It is getting late to dig, transplant and divide these. If you didn’t do this chore over the last two months, better late than never. Bearded Iris should be dug and divided about every four years (every two or three years for aggressive re-blooming varieties).

• If you are growing any of the new “repeat-blooming” varieties they will often be in bloom again now. Keep feeding these re-bloomers. Older “once-blooming” varieties can have their feeding reduced or even eliminated for the rest of the year.

Beneficial Insects:
• The numbers of beneficial insects, as well as pests, are at very low numbers now that the weather is cooling and the days are shortening.

• Giant Whitefly infestations will still be seen, but this late in the season there is no need for treatment with pesticides or beneficial insects.

• Spider mites can still be found on many plants now, but in most cases it is too late in the season for releases of beneficial predator mites.

Bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, etc:
(See also Bearded Iris, Dahlias, Cannas and Tuberous Begonias)

• A few fall blooming bulbs are creating some excitement now in Orange County gardens. These include colchicum, fall blooming crocus, nerine, sternbergia and zepheranthes.

• This is a good month to start the chilling process for tulips, hyacinth, most varieties of crocus, some alliums and fritillaria. If placed in the refrigerator on the first of October they will be ready for planting in December – a perfect time. They should be in a loose paper bag and will need about 10 weeks at a temperature of 39-42 degrees. Better results will be had in old-fashioned frost producing refrigerators and in those without any ripening fruit present.

• Bedding cyclamen in small four-inch pots, although not usually considered along with bulbs, are flowering again. Plant them now in bright shady areas for continuous blooms through March or April of next year.

• This is still a good time to dig, divide and re-plant many of the bulbs that naturalize in Orange County gardens. Those to consider dividing now include babiana, chasmanthe, spring blooming crocus, some daffodils and narcissus, Dutch Iris, gladiolus, hippeastrum and leucojum. Some of these varieties perform best when allowed to go undisturbed for many years, while others need division and re-planting regularly. Check with a knowledgeable source before you begin.

California Native Plants:
• This is the earliest month to consider planting most California natives. These plants are generally summer dormant (although they usually retain their foliage), an adaptation to our dry summers. To establish these plants they should be planted in the fall or early winter, at the onset of cool weather and rains.

• If necessary, prune, thin and shape plants now, at the beginning of their growing season.

• Continue to keep camellias well irrigated in the warm weather of this month and next. If camellias dry out too much now they often will not show much stress. However, this is a significant cause of bud drop in their February – March bloom period.

• Camellias are shallow rooted and dry out quickly. Do not cultivate or allow other plants to grow under or in competition with the roots of your camellia.

• Disbud Japanese Camellias now for larger blooms next spring. If there are more than about two buds per cluster gently twist off any extras and you will have larger and better formed flowers next spring.

• Sasanqua camellias are nearly ready to begin blooming now. These varieties are fall bloomers. Feed them after the bloom cycle is finished.

• Japanese camellias are done with their “growth” cycle for this year. They have also finished setting their flower buds for next year. Most of the plants energy for the remainder of the year is going toward these developing flowers. Do not apply any general fertilizer to camellias until after they finish blooming next year.

• Their flowering may be slowing down a bit finally after several months of bloom.

• Cut out any old flowering stalks all the way to the soil.

• Citrus may be starting to show a few yellow leaves already, especially if there have been some cool night temperatures already.

• Feeding is all done on most plants. The exception is with potted citrus, which should continue feeding with a ½ to 1/3 dose application through the fall. Use a fertilizer that is rich in such trace minerals as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and others. These ingredients are usually well represented in organic fertilizers like Dr. Earth.

• Be careful with irrigations now. Warm, dry weather requires irrigations, while cooler temperatures require little irrigations right now.

• Continue periodically checking for ants. Control them from climbing up the trunk of the tree or onto the branches immediately. Although not directly harmful to the citrus, they are “farming” such pests as scale, whitefly and mealybug, which are all common on citrus.

• Valencia oranges will keep on the tree for months and may “re-green” in the fall. This does not effect their flavor.

• Many clematis offer a heavy second bloom spike during the late summer or early fall. Yours may be beginning this bloom cycle now.

• Apply a half strength feeding to the plant now.

• To keep the roots cool, maintain a thick 3-4 inch layer of organic mulch over them.
• During warm, windy or dry spells be sure to irrigate regularly.

(tuberous types):

• Enjoy the final month of good flowers.

• Continue to regularly remove spent blooms.

• Begin slightly reducing waterings now as the plants near the end of their season.

• This is the final feeding of the year. Fertilize at half strength.

• Powdery mildew may become more prevalent at this time of the year. It may not be worth attempting any control. If you prefer, you can try organic Neem oil or E-Rase.

Deciduous Fruit Trees:
• Watering is less now. Continue to check the soil moisture level in the root area, but the trees will be using less water this time of the year. Keeping the plants barely watered will help force them into dormancy. This can be especially helpful with more temperate varieties that are marginally fruitful in our climate.

• If you are trying to limit the size of your trees, the correct time to prune them is immediately following fruit harvest, which may as late as now, not in the winter.

• Most peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums are finished producing fruit by now. However, many persimmon, apple and pear varieties are fruiting now.

• Irrigate according to the weather, being especially aware of unseasonably hot, dry or windy weather.

• Other than potted plants, which can continue to be fertilized at half strength, there is no need to fertilize again until next year.

• Don’t do any extensive cutting back, transplanting or dividing. Most ferns enjoy warm weather and these tasks are better performed at the beginning of their growth period next year.

(See also the information under the individual plants)

• Make the last application of granular iron fertilizer to gardenias, camellias, azaleas, citrus or any other plants that have a high iron requirement. Plants only absorb iron when the soil temperatures are warm and this is the last chance until next March.

• Do not feed frost sensitive or sub-tropical plants this time of year.

• These are about done with their show for this year and may look a little ragged.

• Stop any fertilizing to the plants now and let them harden off a bit before the really cool months begin.

• There is still a chance of some unusually hot or windy spells. During these days be sure to check the soil moisture carefully, especially those plants in hanging baskets.

• Groom the plant periodically by removing dead flowers and any developing seedpods.

• This is your last chance to apply an iron supplement to your plants. Iron only works effectively in warm soil, so an application now will keep the plants a bit greener all winter.

• Gardenias are shallow rooted dry out quickly. Keep them well watered during any hot or windy periods.

• Gardenias do not like hot dry winds. If these occur, do what you can to shield the plant. A light misting and syringe of the leaves also helps.

• This group includes Ivy geraniums, zonal geraniums (also called “Common” geraniums), Martha geraniums and the various scented geraniums, but does not include true geraniums (sometimes called “Hardy” geraniums), which are discussed under Perennials.

• Ivy and Zonal types are still blooming, but may be look bit stressed from the long hot summer. Keep up with removing spent flowers regularly to encourage more bloom.

• Continue fertilizing, except most scented types, with a balanced fertilizer. The dosage however, can be reduced by half through the next several cool months.

• Ivy and Zonal geraniums do not like heavy pruning. To keep the plants shapely and vigorous for a longer period of time prune back a few long stems every month or so from spring through fall, but never very many at one time. Unless in a mild coastal garden, make this the last month for this pruning until next year.

• Begin pruning back Martha types now. Don’t cut them all at once. Prune back one third of the plant each month for the next three months.

• Fertilizing for the year should be completed by now. No need to feed any more until next year.

• Depending upon the variety, there still may be a few fruit to harvest.

• Begin reducing irrigations to prepare the vines for their upcoming dormant period.

• Powdery mildew may be appearing on the foliage now. Usually this is caused by the vine being location in an area of poor air circulation, too much shade, or the lack of a winter dormant spray. However, late in the season mildew often is present on many grapes. Treatment this late in the season is rarely of much value.

• Warm-season groundcovers are slowing down now and preparing to wait out the cool months ahead. Do not fertilize these varieties now or do any heavy pruning.

• Cool season groundcovers are beginning to grow and even bloom well. Common examples of these are African Daisy (Osteospermum) and South African Daisy (Gazania). Feed these varieties. A granular fertilizer works especially well for groundcovers, particularly on slopes.

• If necessary, this is the best time of the year to perform a heavy cutting-back of cool-season varieties. Many of these build up considerable thatch and loose their vigor if not cut back periodically. In general, the faster they grow the more frequently they need a firm cutting back. Fertilize after the cut-back, to insure quick recovery.

• Continue to irrigate carefully. Periods of very hot, dry weather and Santa Ana winds can dry out groundcover areas quickly.

• This is the official beginning of the planting time for cool-season herbs.

• Cool-season and other herbs that can be fall-planted include anise, arugula, borage, chervil, chives, cilantro, comfrey, dill, fennel, feverfew, garlic chives, lavender, lemon grass, lovage, parsley, rosemary, salad burnet, sorrel, tansy.

• Basil (except African Blue Basil) is in a mighty struggle now. The shorter days and cooler nights are taking their toll and the plants aren’t doing any growing, but are spending all of their energy attempting to set flowers and seeds. Do your best to continue pinching out the flower buds and harvest whatever leaves you can.

• Contrary to some references, do not prune hydrangeas this late in the year. Hydrangeas bloom on one-year-old stems. Pruning now will eliminate most of next year’s flowers.

• If you want to try to get blue or lavender flowers on your otherwise pink plant you can start applying Aluminum Sulfate to the soil as early as now. White flowered varieties will not be effected and not all pinks will be effected the same.

• This is a good month to plant new cool-season lawns like fescue from seed. It is also a good time to add additional seed to thin areas of these same lawns.

• If you did not overseed your hybrid bermuda grass lawn last month and want to you should do it now. In most of southern California hybrid bermuda grass will go dormant until growth resumes about March of next year. Annual Ryegrass is traditionally used as a winter “cover” on these lawns.

• Remember, cool-season lawns (fescue/Marathon, bluegrass, ryegrass) should be mowed about a half an inch lower in the cool months than in the warm months. Set the mower a half-inch lower this month.

• If your cool-season grass has been infested with warm-season turfs like bermudagrass or kikuyugrass this is the last chance of the year to control it. A selective herbicide, named “Grass Getter”, can be sprayed over your cool-season lawn and it will suppress warm-season grasses without damaging the cool-season grasses.

• If you didn’t get it done last month, apply a pre-emergent weed control to prevent Poa Annua (annual bluegrass) from germinating. You will apply it again about Jan. 1. Skip this process if you are overseeding with Annual Bluegrass for the winter.

• Continue feeding warm-season lawns at least one more time keep them green and growing into the fall as far as possible.

• Return to a full dose of fertilizer to your cool-season lawns.
• It’s too late now to be planting warm-season grasses (hybrid bermudagrass, St. Augustine, etc.).

• If you have already over-seeded your warm-season lawn with Annual Rye you should be feeding from now all through the winter, since it is actively growing this time of the year.

• Certain cool-season grasses also develop a thatch layer and require an occasional “de-thatching” for a healthier turf, especially bluegrass and hybrid fescue/Marathon types. This is the best month to de-thatch these cool-season turfs – but not warm-season grasses.

• Crabgrass is at it the end of its season and the clumps are easy to notice in lawns. They are setting seed now that will ensure an even larger problem next year. For small infestations water the lawn and hand pull the clumps – they will remove fairly easily in the soggy soil. For larger infestations use a selective herbicide with the ingredient “MSMA”. Follow label directions carefully.

(outside grown):

• Keep moving your potted Cymbidiums to more light. The foliage should be a slightly bleached out lime-green color. If the leaves are a deep “healthy” green there is a good chance that it is in too much shade and in a few months may bloom poorly.

Ornamental Grasses:
• Many grasses are now developing seed heads. These seed heads can be quite ornamental and are one of the most ornamental aspects of these plants. These flowers can be especially attractive in the low, soft, fall light, especially in the evening and early morning.The foliage of many species of grasses are beginning to dry back some now. This drying foliage, especially when combined with the seed heads waving overhead, are an important part of many garden designs at this time of year. Do not cut these drying grasses back until you have completely enjoyed the “fall” show.

• A few grasses may want to re-seed either in your garden or even into an adjacent wild area. If this as an issue, prune these seed heads off before the heads are fully ripe to prevent the seeds from dispersing.

• The dry flowers of some of these grasses can be used in fall arrangements. Consider these as a “fall” version of a spring flower bouquet.

• This is about the right time to cut back many cool season grasses. Look for signs of new growth at the base of the plant. As soon as these new shoots begin to appear cut all the old foliage to near soil level. The common Pennisetum setaceum or P. orientale are perfect examples of this pruning.

(See also Bearded Iris, Bulbs/Rhizomes/Tubers, Cannas, Dahlias, Fuchsias, Geraniums, Ornamental Grasses and Tuberous Begonias)

• October may be the single most important month in a perennial garden.

• This is right in the middle of the big fall planting months for perennials. Planting now allows these plants to establish themselves all fall and winter, for a great spring bloom. As you shop for these plants, they will not be coming into bloom, but going out of bloom. Experienced gardeners know not to worry about this and they install most of their perennials and shrubs over the next couple of months.

• This is the best month to plant most perennials. The only exceptions are a couple of frost tender sub-tropicals like pentas and scaevola.

• Your perennials will not need much , if any, fertilizing during the upcoming cool months. Exceptions might be a few container plants and the cool-season perennials mentioned below.

• This is a great month to review your perennials for potential replacements or upgrades. Many perennials are short-term plants and loose either their vigor or form quickly and should be re-planted now. These include (with an approximate useful lifespan) columbine (2-3 years), delphinium (1-2 years), euryops daisy (2-3 years), felicia daisy (2-3 years), foxglove (1-2 years), lavender (3-5 years), marguerite daisy (2-3 years), nemesia (1 year), oriental poppy (1-3 years), pelargonium (2-3 years), penstemon (3 years), phygelius (3-5 years), scabiosa (2-3 years) and verbena (varies).

• Divide alstroemeria, armeria, calla (common white), clumping campanula’s, coneflower (Echinacea), coral bells (heuchera), clumping coreopsis, dahlia (tuberous perennial types), daylily (hemerocallis), geranium (true geranium), goldenrod (solidago), Japanese anemone, kniphofia (red hot poker), lamb’s ears (stachys), liatris, true lilies, matilija poppy (rhomneya), obedient plant (physostegia), oregano (ornamental types), phygelius, shasta daisy and stokesia (stokes aster).

• Several perennials slow down considerably or go semi-dormant in the cool months ahead. These varieties can be cut back pretty hard right now to help the garden look a bit tidier until spring. Those that can be cut back now include achillea (yarrow), aster (perennial types, if they have finished blooming), baby’s breath (gypsophila), most campanula, columbine (aquilegia), coral bells (heuchera), coreopsis, daylily (hemerocallis), dianthus (perennial types including carnation), gaillardia, most geranium (true geranium), goldenrod (solidago), Japanese anemone (when they finish blooming), lamb’s ears (stachys), lions tail (leonotis), matilija poppy (rhomneya), monkshood (aconitum), oregano (ornamental types), oriental poppy, penstemon, phlomis, phygelius, rudbeckia, Russian sage (perovskia), most salvia (sage), scabiosa (pincushion flower), shasta daisy, stokesia (stokes aster), valerian (centranthus), verbena (perennial types), and veronica (perennial types).

• Some other perennials do not like a hard cut-back, at least not now, and should only be trimmed lightly to shape them and to remove any old or dead growth. These include agastache, gaura, lamium, lavender (lavandula), nemesia (perennial types), oriental poppy, pelargonium (ivy’s, zonal’s and martha’s), penstemon and thyme.

• Some perennials completely disappear from sight in the cool winter months and then reappear in the spring. Don’t cut these back until the foliage is nearly completely dehydrated, then you can cut the tops off completely near soil level. Be sure to mark where these are in the garden so as not to accidentally damage them when cultivating or digging in the area. Some of these completely herbaceous perennials include asclepias – some varieties (butterfly weed), bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis), caladium, calla (colored types), coneflower (Echinacea), dahlia (tuberous perennial types), chocolate cosmos, kniphofia (red hot poker), liatris, true lilies (lilium), monkshood (aconitum), obedient plant (physostegia) and thalictrum (meadow rue).

• A few perennials are cool-season plants in our climate and are just now beginning to enter their best, most colorful time of the year. Do not prune these now. Instead feed them a bit and they’ll be even better. These include alstroemeria (except in very cold inland gardens), armeria, euryops daisy, forget-me-not (myosotis), hellebore, marguerite daisy and viola (perennial types).

• A few other perennials are sub-tropical and frost tender. These should not be trimmed now or winter damage may occur. Wait until early spring to prune these: begonias, heliotrope, impatiens, lamium, pentas (starflower) and plectranthus.

• Some perennials don’t need any annual cutting back at all. Just groom these a bit by removing any dead leaves, dead stems, old foliage, etc. and let them keep going. These include armeria, calla (common white), oriental poppy and statice (limonium).

• Removing spent or old flowers regularly will help them to produce more new flowers. Some of these can be dried and used in the home for fall arrangements.

• Some perennials are actually biennials, or at least behave like biennials in our climate. For loads of spring flowers set out transplants now. These include Canterbury bells (Campanula medium), hollyhock (Alcea), Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi majus), most foxglove (Digitalis) and most delphiniums. Don’t wait until next spring, which most beginners will do, these must be fall planted to insure spring blooms.

Places to Visit:
Gardens that look terrific almost any time of the year include Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona del Mar), The Fullerton Arboretum (Fullerton), Los Angeles Arboretum (Arcadia), Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens (San Marino) and Quail Botanical Gardens (Encinitas).

(See also the information under the individual plants)
• Roses
• Camellias

• Do not pinch or prune the plant.

• Apply the final feeding this month at half strength.
• Protect the plant from high winds to avoid breaking the stems.

• To “color” a poinsettia for Christmas, now is the time to start. (hint: it usually isn’t worth all the effort). On October 1 move the plant to a completely dark, cool spot (about 65 degrees) for fourteen hours every day (ten hours on daylight). This must be repeated to ten consecutive weeks. The process will not work well if any light reaches the plant (even streetlights or a full moon) or if the process is not consistent. During its daylight period the plant should have direct light for about five to six hours and indirect light for the balance of time. Meanwhile feed the plant frequently with a high phosphorus fertilizer.

Records, Catalogs, Books and Organizations:
• If you kept notes in your garden journal during the spring this is the time to go back and see what needed to be done this fall. Be sure to also drop in some notes from this season about what did well, what is still doing well, and of course, what did not do well.

• With all the planting going on this month it is a good idea to make some notes in your journal about the names and varieties of what you planted. Often, much later, the name or variety or a plant cannot be remembered. After the plant is taken out of the can, save the tag and jot a note into your journal about where and when you planted it.

• Many mail order plant and seed companies send out “fall” catalogs about now. Check the mail for these. They can be a lot of fun and also educational. Be careful however that the plants and information are applicable to our very unique gardening climate here in Orange County.

• Many are blooming very well in the late summer/early fall period. For many modern varieties of roses this really is their “second spring” in southern California. Enjoy the flowers, especially if you did a summer pruning in early August.

• Disease should not be much of an issue now, except perhaps along the immediate coast.

• Do not use soil-applied fertilizers combined with systemic insecticide. These products are very disruptive to soil life (beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworms, etc.). Many rosarians also believe they reduce the vigor of the rose. Continue fertilizing.

• Keep deadheading roses as the flowers fade.

• Pest problems are unlikely this time of the year.

• Irrigations should be gauged according to the weather.

Soil Care:
• We have included this section, because as you know, or will discover with more experience, a good garden begins with the soil. Investing in the soil, managing the soil and protecting the soil are not afterthoughts in a successful garden, but the foundation. Healthy soil is living and breathing, teaming with earthworms, microorganisms, beneficial fungi, bacteria, microbes and other invisible life. This section, possibly the most important topic of all will, provides some helpful guidance to good soil care.

• A thick layer of organic mulch, averaging about two inches, should be maintained on top of the soil just about year-round. Add additional mulch as needed to maintain this level. This is one of the most important months of the year to apply this mulch.

• Applied now, a thick layer of mulch will moderate the soil temperatures, reduce weed germination, and significantly improve both soil life and soil quality.

• If you have been considering inoculating your soil with beneficial mycorrhizae, this is one of the best months of the year to do so. The soil temperatures are just right for quick establishment. Inoculation can be done quickly and easily in established areas by using mycorrhizae “tablets”. In moist soil, poke a hole near the plant with a ½” or ¾” rod or stick. Drop a tablet into the hole and push it in again with the stick.

• If you have been considering inoculating your soil with beneficial mycorrhizae, this is one of the best months of the year to do so. The soil temperatures are just right for quick establishment. Inoculation can be done quickly and easily in established areas by using mycorrhizae “tablets”. In moist soil, poke a hole near the plant with a ½” or ¾” rod or stick. Drop a tablet into the hole and push it in again with the stick.

• We also suggest that you not use soil-applied systemic fertilizer/insecticide combinations (especially popular with roses). These are very damaging to soil life.

• Use insecticides only when necessary and even then use the least damaging product available. Many of these products move into the soil and interfere with the invisible soil life.

• If you can, begin a compost pile or purchase a compost bin. Home compost is one of the very best ingredients you can add to your soil. Home compost helps significantly in disease suppression, increases beneficial microorganisms, improves soil structure and texture, aids nutrient retention and helps with nematode suppression. Over the next couple of months there will be lots of fallen leaves from deciduous trees and these are excellent additions to a compost bin.

• Since this is also one of the biggest planting months of the year, be sure that before you put a plant into the ground you have considered the soil and are doing all you can to improve it and protect its health.

• If your soil PH is too high (alkaline) this is probably the single best month of the year to lower it. Two methods are both effective. Using a low PH mulch over the surface is probably the most effective. The other is with the incorporation of soil sulfur, an organic naturally occurring acidifying chemical.

• Next month is the absolute best month for planting strawberries. Get the area prepared now. It’s probably time to give up on the plants you were growing this year.

Subtropical Fruits:
(See also the information under Avocados, and Citrus)

• Except for the ‘Beaumont’ variety, stark checking now for fallen Macadamia nuts. Pick them off the ground weekly, which may last for up to three months. The ‘Beaumont’ variety will be picked directly off the tree in March.

• Many of these will still be looking good. However, the temperatures will be dropping soon so it is time to reduce or eliminate fertilizing.

• Don’t plant unless you absolutely have to.

• Let these plants harden off a bit before the cool temperatures of late fall and winter. Reducing or eliminating nitrogen fertilizer and cutting back on watering will help the plants get ready for the cooler months ahead.

Sweet Peas:
• Seeds are in good supply now. This is an especially good time to plant seeds of all varieties. Be sure to mix in a few of the early-blooming (also called “short-day”) varieties that may bloom by Christmas. These early varieties include ‘Winter Elegance’ (our favorite) and ‘Early Multiflora’.

• If you planted seeds last month, thin them to about one plant every 6-8 inches. Fill in any gaps with additional seed or transplants.

• Pinch the tips of sweet peas when they get about 4-6 inches tall to encourage branching.

(See also the information under Avocados, Citrus, Deciduous Fruit Trees and Subtropical Fruits)

• A light pruning at this time may help the trees deal with the strong Santa Ana winds.

• A good time to prune most evergreen trees (except for tender sub-tropical trees like Ficus, Coral Tree, Avocado, Citrus, etc.). Wait a month or two on deciduous trees, since the process will be much easier after the leaves have fallen. Nesting birds are unlikely at this season, the sap flow is reduced and the pruning will help strong Santa Ana winds pass through the tree canopy with little damage.

Tropicals & Subtropicals:
(See also the information under Avocados, Citrus and Subtropical Fruits)

• Many of these will still be blooming and looking good. However, the temperatures will be dropping soon so it is time to reduce or eliminate fertilizing these plants.

• It is not unusual for many of these to have a big fall flower burst now. Look for lots of color now on plumerias, hibiscus, bougainvillea and ginger.

• Don’t plant unless you absolutely have to.

• Let these plants harden off a bit before the cool temperatures of late fall and winter. Reducing or eliminating nitrogen fertilizer and cutting back on watering will help the plants get ready for the cooler months ahead.

Tuberous Begonias:
• Plants are about done for this year. Enjoy the last of the flowers.

• Stop fertilizing. The plants need to slow down now, so that you can lift the tubers next month and store them.

• Reduce the watering significantly. Don’t let them wilt, but keep them much drier that you have all summer. This will help the plant move its sugars from the leaves and stems downward and into the tubers.

• Powdery mildew is much more likely now, near the end of their season. Don’t worry about it. The season is about over anyway.

• Plant potatoes from certified “seed potatoes” (actually little tubers). Planting now will provide potatoes ready to harvest next summer.

• This is a perfect month for cool-season vegetable planting. Give up on most of the warm-season plants that are hanging on and give this valuable space to their cool-season brethren.

• Plant transplants or seeds of arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collards, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mesclun mix, mustard, onions, parsley, peas and spinach. From seed plant beets, carrots, favas, parsnips, radishes, rutabaga and turnips.

• Beets, carrots, chard, radish and possibly turnips can be planted just about year-round. All but chard are planted from seed only.

• Now is one of the best times to plant garlic, onions, shallots or leeks from sets (little bulbs).

• Putting in successive plantings of many vegetables a couple of weeks apart from each other will insure a constant, uninterrupted supply for the kitchen.

• If you didn’t last month, cut down asparagus tops now.
• The weather can still be very warm and dry and Santa Ana winds are common now. Be sure to keep the garden well watered during these spells.

• Since most annual vegetables are shallow rooted and quick growing, feed them regularly with a well balanced organic fertilizer.

Water & Irrigation:
(See also the information under the individual plants)

• Watch out for drying Santa Ana winds. Take down hanging baskets and set them on the ground when these winds blow.

• Reset sprinklers now, since the weather is cooling off.

• It’s almost time to start wildflowers from seed. Along the coast, this can be a good time, but in inland gardens wait until November.

• The best time to broadcast wildflower seeds is in the late fall, just before a rainy period. If possible, check the weather forecasts and look for a long, gradual storm approaching. Broadcast the seeds just before the rains begin. If it appears to be an early winter you may start now, otherwise wait until next month and spend this month preparing the area instead.

• Weeds will overwhelm your wildflowers, if not controlled. As soon as they sprout, start weeding.

• No need to do any pruning now. You’ll make your final pruning of the year in December.
• The foliage of wisterias may be looking a bit dry and even showing a little tip burn. No need to worry, there is not much you can do to assist the plant right now.

• Watering needs will be greatly reduced now and there is no need to fertilize.

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A Ron Vanderhoff Blog