Q: It’s been a tough summer for my yard. What things should I be doing in my garden in October? — Elaine, Templeton
A: In October the temperature is cooler, the soil remains warm, and, if we are lucky, much-needed rains will soon follow. October brings beautiful fall colors, along with those milder temperatures, so these can be our best days to work in the garden.
Your garden activities now will center on three areas: garden cleanup, fertilization and planting new plant material. This is the time to clean out beds and vegetable gardens, tidy up or divide and replant perennials, remove dead or diseased branches from trees and shrubs, pull cool season weeds, and then apply a thick layer of mulch. Leaves will be gin to fall, so they can be raked up and added to the compost pile, along with any other nondiseased plant debris from your clean-up efforts.
Many plants will need a good feeding at this time, including fruit trees and turf grasses. Acid-loving camellias and azaleas are setting buds now and should be fed with an acid-based fertilizer. After the fall bloom on roses, cut them back and feed them again for blooms before Christmas, or let them form hips and take a natural approach to dormancy. While you are fertilizing, be sure to check and re-program your irrigation systems and timers.
This is the best time to plant California native plants and shrubs, and to sow wildflower seeds. Native or welladapted trees love being planted in the fall, as their roots grow over the winter and they will be well estab lished by next summer. Garden centers have a good selection of bulbs that can be planted now for a riot of color next spring. Be sure to prechill bulbs of tulips, crocus and hyacinth in the refrigera tor before planting. If you want to have a winter vegetable garden, this is the time to plant greens, herbs and all cool season vegetables.
Enjoy your time in the October garden!
GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?
Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email firstname.lastname@example.org .