Oct. 2013 To-Do List: Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

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rake with leaves in autumnThe cooler temperatures and shorter days are triggering the color show in our autumn leaves now. This is a good time to do a little inventory on your trees. Look at the dripline to make sure the soil hasn’t washed away, leaving exposed roots. If it has, try using a soaker hose, so the water penetrates the ground more deeply. That should coax the roots to grow more deeply, too. Before winter storms begin, go ahead and prune any weak, diseased, or broken branches from your trees. Don’t hesitate to call in a professional, if needed; safety first! You can still plant new trees into mid-November. Be sure to keep them well watered until their roots become established or rainfall arrives.

  • Coleus are grown more for their foliage than their rather ordinary-looking flowers, so most gardeners pinch off the blooms to help the plants direct energy into producing beautiful leaves. Before frost, take cuttings to root in water indoors. After roots form, pot up the cuttings and keep them in a bright window.
  • Pick remaining fruit from your trees, and clean up fallen leaves, fruit, and other debris from the ground, to reduce the chance that diseases and pests will overwinter.
  • To deter hungry deer, blend one quart of water, one raw egg, one tablespoon of liquid soap, and two tablespoons of fish oil. Let the mixture sit in the sun for a few days before spraying it on your plants with a hand sprayer. Store in the refrigerator and reapply as needed.
  • Don’t pull weeds when the ground is wet. You might disturb the roots of your desirable plants. Use grass clippers to whack the weeds close to the ground instead.
  • Use floating row covers to protect plants from sudden freezes. This can help extend your harvest for days or even weeks.
  • Sow a cover crop in parts of the garden you don’t plan to use again until spring. This will help control erosion from storms and help keep down weeds. About a month before you plant your spring crops, cut down the cover crop and till it under to add nitrogen to the soil.
  • Bare patches in the lawn may signal grubs. Raccoons and other animals will dig up your grass to eat them. Control the grubs with beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that release a bacteria that is toxic to these pests.
  • When you dump pots of summer annuals to refill with pansies and other cool season flowers, don’t re-use the old soil. It’s probably depleted of nutrients, so add it to your compost pile. Soak the pots to remove crusty white patches, which are formed from salts in commercial fertilizers. Let the pots air dry before storing them away.
  • Sow seeds of radishes, spinach, mustard, turnips, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, endive, kale, lettuce, bok choy, and brocolli.
  • Sow herb seeds, including flat-leaf parsley, chives, chervil, and cilantro.
  • Broadcast wildflower seeds over lightly cultivated ground for spring flowers.

 

 Image: SS/Elena Elisseeva

 

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