Southwest Checklist

What to do in your garden in October
Kim Nelson

PLANTING

Beneficial blooms. These perennials and shrubs bear flowers that attract beneficial insects: autumn sage (Salvia greggii), coreopsis, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Lantana montevidensis, rue (Ruta graveolens), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), wild buckwheat (Eriogonum), and yarrow. The beneficial bugs pollinate plants and help control pest insects.

Cool-season color. Sunset climate zones 1a-3b: For winter color, set out transplants of chrysanthemums, dianthus, ornamental kale, and poppies. For spring bloom, sow seeds of baby's breath (Gypsophila paniculata), larkspur, snapdragons, and sweet alyssum. Zones 10-13: Set out transplants of calendula, dianthus, Iceland poppies, snapdragons, and stock. For spring color, sow African daisies, California and Shirley poppies, golden columbine, and owl's clover.

Cool-season herbs. Zones 10-13: Set out transplants of chamomile, chives, and salad burnet. Sow seeds of cilantro, dill, and parsley every two weeks for continuous harvest.

Fall color. Zones 1a-3b: Drought-tolerant choices for reliable autumn color include shrubs like dwarf coralberry (Symphoricarpos x chenaultii 'Hancock'), European cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus), and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina); and trees like Ginkgo biloba, ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana), and redtwig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera). Zones 10-13: Consider shrubs like pyracantha and trees such as Chinese flame tree (Koelreuteria bipinnata), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), and honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).

Garlic. Separate "mother" bulbs into cloves; plant cloves individually, pointed end up. Two good sources for both hardneck and softneck garlic are Garden City Seeds ( www.irish-eyes.com or 877/733-3001) and Territorial Seed Company ( www.territorialseed.com or 541/942-9547).

Permanent plants. All kinds of hardy groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, and vines can go into the ground now.

Pine tree alternatives. Due to the ongoing severe drought and vulnerability to bark beetle infestation, pines are not currently viable choices as landscape plants. Some alternatives: In zones 1a-3b, try mountain alder (Alnus tenuifolia), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), or sugar maple (Acer saccharum); in zones 10 and 11, consider flowering crabapple (Malus), green hawthorn (Crataegus viridis), and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

Strawberries. In well-drained, organically enriched soil, set out plants anytime after midmonth for a crop next spring or early summer. When planting, take care to keep crowns above the soil level; mulch generously around plants. In zones 1a-3b, try 'Fort Laramie' or 'Ozark Beauty'. In zones 10-13, plant 'Chandler', 'Sequoia', or 'Tristar' in areas that get afternoon shade.

Vegetables. Zones 10-13: Sow seeds of beets, bok choy, carrots, fennel, kohlrabi, lettuce (and other salad greens like arugula), peas, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips. Set out transplants of artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and shallots. Plant garlic cloves and onion sets.

Wildflowers. Zones 10-13: In a sunny site, lightly rake the soil, scatter seeds, then cover with a thin layer of organic mulch; keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.