What to do in your garden in October
Bulb covers. Sunset climate zones 7-9, 14-17: Cool-season annuals planted over bulbs provide a colorful show before and after bulbs bloom. Choose colors to complement the bulbs ― blue violas with white daffodils, blue forget-me-nots with yellow tulips, salmon Primula obconica with purple tulips, or purple and white fairy primroses with pink tulips.
Fruit trees. Zones 7-9, 14-17: If you lack space to grow multiple fruit trees, try planting four trees in one large hole. Choose four varieties of one kind of fruit (heirloom apples, for instance), or two varieties each of two different types of fruits, all with different ripening times. Pair 'Earlitreat' yellow peach (early May), for instance, with 'Heavenly White' nectarine (mid- to late July), 'Arctic Supreme' white peach (late July to early August), and 'August Glo' yellow nectarine. Make sure the trees have similar cultural requirements and similar growth rates (be sure that they are on similar rootstocks); always buy trees from a knowledgeable source.
Garlic. Zones 7-9, 14-17: To plant garlic, break bulbs into individual cloves and set them, base down, in rich, well-drained soil. Cover regular garlic with 1 to 2 inches of soil; cover elephant garlic (not a true garlic but a bulbing leek with mild garlic flavor) with 4 to 6 inches of soil. Press the soil down firmly and water well. Continue to irrigate until winter rains keep the soil consistently moist. In late winter, side-dress planting with cottonseed meal or chicken manure. Also, foliar-feed every 10 to 14 days with a high-nitrogen fertilizer until bulbing begins. For a wide selection of garlic varieties, order from Garden City Seeds ( www.irish-eyes.com or 509/964-7000).
Lawns. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Fall is an ideal time to plant grass seeds or lay sod. Prepare the bed thoroughly. Rotary-till the soil, turn in plenty of organic matter (such as compost), and apply a lawn fertilizer for new lawns (follow package directions).
Spring bulbs. Zones 7-9, 14-17: Continue to plant Dutch irises, freesia, ranunculus, and watsonia.
Store seeds. Most leftover seeds can be saved for the following season as long as they're stored properly. The germination rate will be significantly less than 100 percent, but it should still be adequate. Place dry unused seeds in a zip-lock plastic bag and store them in a cool, dry area; high temperatures and high humidity can shorten their life span.
Halt snails. Cool, damp fall weather brings on snails. To control these pesky creatures, apply a bait containing iron phosphate (Sluggo, for instance), which is safe to use around edible crops, children, pets, and wildlife. Or you can surround the edges of pots and raised beds with copper barrier tape. Both products are available at many nurseries and can be ordered from Harmony Farm Supply & Nursery ( www.harmonyfarm.com or 707/823-9125).