- Author: Sue Davis, Master Gardener
If there is time for nothing else, consider these four things to enhance a garden:
(1) Groceries to Plant Now: In early October, sow seeds for winter herb and vegetable harvest. Look for transplants of some vegetables as the month edges closer to Halloween. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, and kale grow well from transplants. Lettuce, parsnips, carrots, and radishes grow best from seed and all love the warm days and cool nights of our fall season.
(2) Add a Peaceful Looking Tree to the Landscape: Japanese Maples have graceful foliage, a beautiful form, and are adaptable to containers if they need to be. For serenity in the garden, consider Red Pygmy, Orangeola, or Gable Glory (pictured on the right). Red Pygmy is a vase-shaped tree with a rounded top. Its leaves turn gold as the season comes to an end. Orangeola has glossy orange red leaves that fade to dark red and provide a long-lasting autumn display. Gable Glory's new leaf color is orange red and long lasting – especially if it is not in full sun. The yellow green bark on this tree that grows to about 12 feet provides interest over the gloomy months. Be sure to check the specifics on these trees so the right plant is in the right place.
(3) Bulb Gardens: October provides an opportunity to search for the perfect spring blooming bulbs. If there is room, try naturalizing the bulbs by tossing handfuls of a single kind over the planting area. Then plant them where they fall. Bulbs like full sun with not much summer water. If space is limited, create a container garden of spring blooming bulbs. Some nurseries are offering free shipping this fall so it's a great time to order amaryllis, callas, gladiolus, and lilies – all do well in our zone 9. Voodoo lilies are purple and unusual in appearance, but have a foul smell that attracts flies, so be careful with that purchase. If the unusual appeals, pineapple lilies are colorful, come in a variety of colors, and won't cause nose wrinkling.
(4) Feed the Birds: Consider planting some food for the birds to help tide them over this winter. Sumac, Serviceberry, Red Chokeberry, Holly, Pyracantha, and Black Chokeberry all grow in our area and are attractive to birds through the winter. Be sure to research the growth conditions and expected height and width of the plants before making a final choice.
Holidays are approaching, but our gardens will still profit from some attention. Here are four for November:
(1) Landscape “Housekeeping”: November is a great time to tend to a myriad of garden chores in readiness for winter and spring. Pay special attention to fallen leaves. Rake them into a compost pile or crunch them up and till into the garden for spring planting. If any plants need to be pruned or moved, do it now – there are more reasonable “outside days” than there will be next month.
3) Check sprinklers: If any are broken, fix them now so they are ready to go once spring arrives. Turn off sprinklers for the winter once they have been checked and repaired, if needed. It is also a good time to be sure the outside faucets are working properly and to wrap the pipes in case of a freeze this winter. Big box stores sell foam tubes that make wrapping pipes a breeze.
(4) Check pots and containers: Having a lazy day but still want to get outside for a while? Turn empty pots and containers upside down so they do not hold water over the winter and invite mosquitos in the spring. Remove pans under containers so the roots of container plants don't become waterlogged.
Such a busy month for everyone! Just a quick four for December:
(1) Birds are still hungry all winter: If the landscape won't support birds over the winter, consider making a few bird ”treats” to set out each month until spring plantings take up the slack. It's a great activity for children and parents or grandparents on a rainy day. Some toilet paper rolls, string, a few apples, pinecones, peanut butter, and bird seed will make a host of bird feeders.
Apple Core Bird Seed Feeder: Simply scoop out the core of an apple half, place seeds inside it, and hang. Add peanut butter for extra stickiness which makes it easy for birds to get at both the seeds and the inside of an apple.
Pinecone Bird Seed Feeder: Using a pinecone that has opened, pack peanut butter into the spaces, roll in birdseed, tie a string around the narrow end and hang in a tree.
(2) A gift for yourself (and/or another gardener): Plant an indoor herb garden using transplants and pretty pots in good potting soil. Set them in a sunny window and they will scent the area around them and add flavor to a variety of food over the winter.
(3) Take care of garden tools: Sharpen pruners, loppers, lawnmowers, and shovels. Wipe a very thin layer of oil over the tools and put them away until they are needed again.
(4) Plan something: Take 10 -15 minutes with your feet up and a favorite beverage by your side to look through seed catalogs and garden books and dream about what you want to accomplish in your landscape as the new year rolls in.
Information for this article was gathered from:
San Joaquin Master Gardeners: A Valley Gardeners Journal
San Joaquin County Vegetable Garden Calendar – 2011
Sacramento County Master Gardeners: Gardening Guide
Month By Month Gardening – California – Claire Splan
Sloat Nursery's October Newsletter