October To-Do List For Your Southern California Garden

Written by Susan B.

October is when Southern California gardeners continue their summer garden cleanup, fall planting of cool weather and winter crops, and continue with seasonal garden maintenance chores. Our magnificent climate allows us to enjoy the beauty and bounty of our gardens all year long. Whether you’re uncertain about what you should do to care for your garden in October or like to use a handy checklist to ensure that you do not forget anything, our October To-Do List will guide you as you tackle your monthly gardening chores.

October Garden Maintenance

Composting 

If you don’t already have a compost heap, now is the ideal time to start one. Instead of throwing plants you pull up away, add them to a compost pile. You can also add dry leaves, grass clippings, broken down cardboard, torn up pieces of brown paper bags, and food waste scraps. Food waste that’s acceptable to add to a compost heap includes fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds and tea leaves, eggshells, food scraps, animal products and bones, and dairy waste. Fine Gardening recommends building a compost pile with a ratio of 60% dry or brown (carbon-based) material, and 40% green or wet (nitrogen-based) material. When you build your compost heap, alternate layers of brown and green substances, keep the pile watered as you add layers. Make sure your pile has the adequate airflow necessary for the contents to break down. Eventually, you’ll have a substance that gardeners refer to as “black gold.” 

Deadheading

Deadhead your summer bloomers such as blanket flower, Mexican hat, and Naked Ladies. When you deadhead (remove the dried up and dead flowers), you prevent the plant from producing seeds where the deceased flower heads were. Doing that forces the plant to put energy into developing new blooms. 

Decrease Watering Frequency

As the days grow shorter and temperatures fall, lessen the frequency with which you water your plants. Although you may not be watering your garden plants as often, don’t make the mistake of altering the time you leave the water on. With cooler temperatures, you’ll be able to allow more days to pass between each watering. 

Clean Up Your Garden

If you have vegetable plants that are no longer bearing fruit, dig them up. The same goes for annuals that are past their prime. Leaving tired plants in the ground will make your garden look unkempt. Pick up any fruits or vegetables that have fallen on the ground. If you leave them there, you’re likely to attract wild animals and pests, which may damage or destroy your healthy food crops and other thriving plants. 

Divide More Perennials

Although you may have divided most of your perennials in September, there are a few that will need attention now. You will also want to separate pups (baby plantlets) from their mother plant as long as the plantlets have small roots. 

Douglas Iris grows from rhizomes that resemble deformed potatoes. Dig them up so you can separate rhizomes that have grown off the main plant. If you can safely separate them with your hands, do so that way. Otherwise, if you have to use a garden knife, be sure that you’ve cleaned and sterilized it before using it to cut into the rhizome. 

If you grow Agave plants, they probably produced pups. Gently separate the pups that have evidence of roots from the mother plant. You’ll want to plant the pups in pots that have drainage holes. Use a planting medium like a cactus and succulent mix because these products are amended with organic matter that ensures adequate drainage. After planting the pups, water until the soil settles. Then leave the potted pups alone until you can gently tug on the plant and feel a slight resistance. That’s a sign that the plantlet has a fully established root system. At this point, you can water as you would with any succulent. 

Protect Your Cole Crops

Cabbage moths can wreak havoc on cole crops, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Use a floating row cover to protect your plants. A row cover won’t deprive the plants of light or moisture, but it will provide a protective barrier that deprives cabbage moths of access to your crops. 

October Planting

Plant more California natives in your garden.  Plant wildflowers in October to ensure that they’re scattered in time for rain. Continue planting cooler weather vegetables. 

California Wild Lilac (Ceanothus)

California Wild Lilac is a North American native that is often found growing in the wild in the Western United States. Although it’s common name is “lilac,” it isn’t a “true” lilac because they belong to the Syringa genus. These plants come in various forms, including shrubs, which grow to heights of 8-to-9 feet, and ground covers, which never grow taller than 6-inches. All California lilac plants are evergreen and have shiny medium-green-colored leaves. They produce vibrant clusters of bright periwinkle to light blue-colored fragrant flowers that start blooming in late spring and continue through early summer. 

Red Bush Monkey Flower – (Mimulus aurantiacus var. puniceus)

Red Bush Monkey Flower is a small shrub that is native to areas along the Southern California coast. It is ideally suited to gardens in our area because it only grows to two feet tall. 

The shrub is characterized by dark green leaves and vivid red trumpet-shaped flowers. It blooms for most of the year, depending on the yearly rainfall patterns.) Red Bush Monkey Flower provides a vital food source for hummingbirds. Allow the shrub to become semi-deciduous during the hottest part of the year, namely, the summer. It will go into dormancy, and leaves will return during the rainy season. Avoid watering it directly during the late summer and early fall months because watering it during this period will kill the plant. Healthy plants will reseed themselves prolifically. 

Scatter wildflower seeds this month to ensure that the rains nourish them so they can sprout and bloom next spring. 

Direct sow arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. Sow seeds every two weeks to stagger arugula, lettuce, and spinach. This will ensure that you can harvest these crops throughout the fall and into the winter. 

If you have starter plants or seedlings for beans, broccoli, kohlrabi, and peas, October is the time to transplant them into your vegetable garden. 

Consider harvesting greywater, the water that is discharged through your plumbing system every time you do laundry or take a shower. When our state is facing destructive wildflowers, your use of greywater in your garden will free up municipal water that fire departments will desperately need to fight these life-threatening fires. 

If you’re interested in adding new native plants to your garden, or prefer to use starter plants in your vegetable garden, stop by one of our stores to check our inventory. Our garden experts are always available to help you, and we are implementing the recommended CDC safety and cleanliness measures to ensure your safety while shopping at our stores.

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