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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


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

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Planting lettuce in a raised bed.In other parts of the country, October is a time to clean up and close down the garden. But thanks to our pleasant climate, we can continue to plant and transplant. Just be sure to water regularly and deeply if rain is scarce during this typically dry month.  If you aren’t going to use all of your garden space for cool season crops, consider planting a cover crop of clover, beans, or vetch. When you cut down the cover crop and till it in next spring, you’ll be adding valuable nitrogen to the soil

  • Plant bok choy, carrots, lettuce, endive, kale, spinach, arugula, radishes, endive, radicchio, and mustard greens. Sow more seeds of leafy greens every two weeks to keep fresh salads on the table. Use row covers to protect tender crops from frost.
  • In the herb garden, grow parsley, dill, cilantro, fennel, chives, and chervil. If herbs re-seed, transplant the seedlings into pots to keep near the kitchen, or relocate them to other spots in the garden.
  • Broccoli is ready to harvest now and into November, depending on when you planted. It can take some frost, but not a hard freeze. Pick while the flower buds are still tightly closed, and try sauteing the heads with olive oil and garlic.
  • If ferns grow from newly-planted asparagus, cut them to the ground after the frost turns them brown. Don’t harvest the spears when they appear next spring; give them another year, so they have time to grow into ferns that nourish the roots.
  • Holes in foliage and slimy trails indicate snails and slugs. To trap them, bury a small margarine tub so that the lip is even with the surface of the soil. Fill it with beer or yeast mixed with a little water. Change the beer or yeast mixture every few days.
  • Wait until poinsettias and Christmas cacti set blooms before bringing them indoors.
  • Plant strawberries in a well-tilled bed, and cover it with newspapers. Make slits in the paper and insert the plants. When flowers appear next spring, keep them picked off to give the plant more energy for producing lots of berries the following year.
  • Watch for insects clinging to plants you bring inside. Soak the pots in a solution of mild liquid soap and water to help remove them.
  • Spring flowering-bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, and alliums should be pre-chilled in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks before fall planting.
  • Plant anemones, daffodils, callas, and narcissus, and use pansies and ornamental kales and cabbages for seasonal color. Plant perennials around the bulbs to help hide their foliage when it fades in spring.
  • Dig and divide overcrowded perennials, to give the roots time to become established before the next bloom season.
  • Sow wildflower seeds Some may bloom by the end of the year. Keep the seedlings watered.
  • When the rains return, consider planting mountain lilac, a California native that bears attractive white or blue blooms. Choose from varieties that range in growth habit from ground covers to small trees.
  • De-thatch and aerate the lawn. Overseed bare spots before the weather changes, but don’t fertilize newly seeded areas.
  • Fertilize roses for the last time before cooler weather nudges them into dormancy. They’ll start growing again when the soil temperature hits about 60 degrees F. 
  • Start perennial beds by removing sod and layering three inches of good organic matter over the ground. Till to a depth of 12 inches, and plant daylilies, iris, and peonies.


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