Meadow plants. Few of us have room in the backyard to create a meadow, but anyone can grow a mini version in a pot. Plant a clumping grass like Festuca glauca in a container partially filled with potting soil, then tuck baby blue eyes, Eschscholzia caespitosa (a smaller version of California poppy), or tidytips around it. If you can't find these wildflower seedlings at nurseries, start them from seed. A good source is the Theodore Payne Nursery ( www.theodorepayne.org or 818/768-1802).
Ornamentals. Fall is the ideal time to set out permanent landscaping plants. Check out these new shrub varieties from Native Sons Wholesale Nursery ( www.nativeson.com or 805/481-5996): 'Baby Barnsley' lavatera, 3 to 4 feet tall with white flowers; and 'Mozart' rosemary, about 3 feet tall with dark blue flowers. Also new from Native Sons is 'Spindrift' Santa Barbara daisy; it's more compact than the 3-foot-tall species (Erigeron karvinskianus), and it won't reseed.
Seasonal color. Except in the mountains, there's still time to set out cool-season bedding plants. Snapdragons are a good choice. A pretty new variety from Do Right's Plant Growers ( www.dorights.com or 805/525-2155), a wholesale nursery in Santa Paula, is 'Candy Snap'. It has bright pink flowers set against green-and-white variegated leaves. Other colorful choices to plant now include calendula, diascia, English daisies, Iceland poppies, nemesia, osteospermum, pansies, stock, and violas.
Winter vegetables. In Sunset climate zones 13 (low desert) and 14-24 (coastal and inland), continue to sow seeds of beets, carrots, chard, onions, parsley, peas, radishes, and turnips. Set out broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower seedlings. Coastal gardeners can also continue to plant lettuces. In the foothills and Central Valley (zones 7-9 and 14), sow peas and spinach and plant garlic and onions.
Prepare for winter rains. Clean out gutters, downspouts, and swales. Buy barrels or other storage devices to collect rainwater for plants.
Stay ahead of weeds. Pull out annual bluegrass, chickweed, sowthistle, and other young weeds as they emerge.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Spray fruit trees. If pests or fungal diseases have attacked your deciduous fruit trees this past year, take steps now to protect the trees from attacks next year. After leaves have dropped, spray trees with a mixture of lime sulfur or fixed copper and horticultural oil (on apricots, use only fixed copper). The oil smothers eggs of over-wintering insect pests; the lime sulfur or copper discourages fungal diseases like peach leaf curl. Spray branches, the trunk, and the ground beneath the trees out to the driplines.
Tetanus in soils. Tetanus bacteria occurs naturally in soil, manure, and potting media ― materials gardeners are exposed to all the time. If such materials get into an open wound, you're vulnerable to this potentially fatal disease. If it has been more than 10 years since your last booster shot and you're a hands-in-the-dirt kind of gardener, it's time for another.