Cool-season herbs and veggies. Prepare planting beds by digging in a 6-inch layer of compost or well-aged manure. Sunset climate zones 1a-3b: Sow seeds of bok choy, carrots, chard, kale, lettuce, radishes, and spinach; plant garlic cloves. Zones 10-13: As soon as daytime temperatures stay below 100°, sow seeds of arugula, beets, bok choy, borage, carrots, chard, cilantro, dill, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, parsley, peas, and turnips. Plant onion sets and set out transplants of broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chives, salad burnet, and winter savory.
Cool-season flowers. Zones 1a-3b: Sow seeds of cornflower, larkspur, and poppy for spring bloom. Set out transplants of chrysanthemum, Iceland poppy, and nemesia. Zones 11-13: Set out transplants of calendula, dianthus, feverfew, larkspur, pansy, petunia, primrose, snapdragon, stock, sweet alyssum, and viola. Sow sweet peas.
Rabbit-resistant plants. If bunnies are feasting on your garden, foil them with plants they'll find distasteful: Agave, aloe, cuphea, emu bush (Eremophila), evergreen sumac (Rhus choriophylla), gopher plant (Euphorbia lathyris), heavenly bamboo, lantana, Mexican evening primrose, pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), plumbago, rosemary, salvia, Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), verbena, and yucca.
Spring bulbs. Zones 1a-3b, 10-11: Plant spring-blooming bulbs, including crocus, daffodil, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, and tulip. Zones 12-13: Buy hyacinths and hybrid tulips now; put the bulbs in paper bags and chill in the crisper section of your refrigerator until the soil cools down in early November, then plant them in the garden. Botanical tulips (Tulipa species) don't require prechilling; one good source is High Country Gardens (800/925-9387).
Control insects indoors. When spider mites, whiteflies, or other insect pests infest houseplants, try this recipe: To 1 gallon of water, add 2 tablespoons of mild dishwashing liquid (avoid citrus-scented products, which can damage plants). Pour the soapy solution into spray bottles; spritz the foliage and soak the soil.
Dig and divide perennials. Zones 1a-3b, 10: With a spade, loosen the soil around clumps of daylilies, hostas, peonies, and Shasta daisies. Lift the clump out of the ground and use a sharp knife to divide it into pieces about the size of 1-gallon container plants. Replant divisions immediately. Zones 11-13: Lift and divide crowded iris rhizomes.
Keep up wildfire defense. Sweep debris from rooftops and gutters. Remove leaf litter and dry brush within 30 feet of structures. Prune dead wood from trees, cut away branches that touch or hang over structures, and thin surrounding vegetation to reduce the fuel supply. Visit www.sunset.com/fire for more fire-protection advice.
Rejuvenate roses. Zones 1a-3b, 10: Let faded blossoms remain on plants to slow growth before winter. Zones 11-13: On hybrid tea roses, prune any dead or damaged canes, then cut remaining canes back by one-third. Fertilize and water thoroughly to encourage fall bloom.
TIP FROM THE TEST GARDEN
To produce coarse compost in one to two months, use a 50-50 mixture of green and brown materials. Green matter includes grass clippings and vegetable scraps. For brown matter, use dead leaves, wood chips, or straw (not hay). For finer-textured compost, keep the pile working for several more weeks.