Southern California

What to do in your garden in October


Bulb covers. To mark the spots where you planted bulbs so you won't dig them up while planting around them, put in annuals directly over them. (The annuals will also help hide the bulbs' yellowing foliage later.) Good choices include forget-me-nots, lobelia, dwarf snapdragons, sweet alyssum, and violas.

Cool-season crops. In frost-free areas, plant broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cole crops. Before planting, remove a few bottom leaves from seedlings, then plant deeply ― up to the leaves ― as you would a tomato. Sow seeds or plant seedlings of arugula, beets, carrots, celery, cilantro, lettuce, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, and turnips.

Daylilies. These flowers outperform roses if you select the right varieties. The following cultivars are guaranteed to put on a strong fall show: yellow 'Bitsy'; red 'Frankly Scarlet' and 'Hot Lips'; and and orange 'Leebea Orange Crush' or 'Terra Cotta Baby'.

Shallots. This gourmet crop is a cinch to grow. Shallots taste like a cross between onions and garlic but are sweeter than both. A good source for bulbs is Territorial Seed Company ( or 541/942-9547).

Spring bulbs. Continue to plant anemones, babiana, daffodils, Dutch irises, freesia, ipheion, ixia, ranunculus, sparaxis, and watsonia.


Divide tubers and bulbs. If agapanthus, callas, clivia, daylilies, and irises have become overcrowded and are not blooming well, it's probably time to dig and divide them. Use a spading fork to lift; then pull or cut each clump into sections with a sharp knife, pruning shears, or shovel.

Feed roses for final bloom. If you deadhead and fertilize roses after their fall bloom, you can enjoy a bloom cycle around the winter holidays. Or give these hardworking shrubs an early rest and let them form hips, which also look wonderful in bouquets.

Prune tropicals. Bird of paradise, canna, and ginger will soon slow their growth for winter. Cut stems that have already flowered to the ground.

Reset sprinklers. Once weather cools, adjust sprinkler settings to irrigate for the same length of time, but increase the number of days between waterings.


Guard against snails and slugs. Slip collars or sleeves around vulnerable young vegetable seedlings or new annuals, and put copper strips around raised beds. Or handpick slugs and snails early in the morning; you'll find them hiding out amidst strappy-leafed plants like agapanthus, daylilies, and New Zealand flax. If you prefer to use bait, choose an iron phosphate product like Sluggo, which won't harm pets or wildlife.

Protect cabbage crops. Cabbage loopers ― small, green caterpillars ― can do quick damage to broccoli, cabbage, and kale seedlings. To keep cabbage looper butterflies from laying eggs on these and other cole crops, cover plants with floating row covers immediately after planting. Or dust leaves with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which kills the young caterpillar larvae.

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