OCTOBER Plant Care Checklist
Maintenance and prevention
- Reduce irrigation times significantly as day length shortens and plant growth slows or stops.
- Clean up diseased and damaged plant materials so pathogens don’t overwinter.
- Add garden waste, grass clippings, pruning material, and leaves to compost so long as they are not diseased. Turn compost and keep it as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Cover before rains start to retain moisture; cover during rainy weather to avoid the pile becoming waterlogged.
- Add compost and organic soil amendments but don’t disturb shallow-rooted plants.
- Refresh the spring application of mulch to bring it to two to four inches. (Avoid thicker layer of bark mulch as it may hide smoldering embers in the event of a nearby fire.)
- Clean garden tools. Disease microorganisms may also overwinter on the surface of stakes, tomato cages, trellises, and other garden equipment. Remove all soil from the tools and clean them with a 10% bleach solution or other disinfectant to protect your tools from spreading diseases. Apply a light layer of oil to prevent rusting if you will not be using them for a while. Wash garden gloves.
- Visit nurseries to see trees and shrubs with outstanding fall color; determine if there’s a place in your garden that would benefit from one of these selections.
Planting and propagating
- Plant California natives. This is the perfect time.
- Reseed bare spots in your lawn or install sod. Consider reducing or replacing your lawn to conserve water.
- Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, perennials, evergreens and groundcovers. Winter rains will help establish sturdy root systems.
Cutting and pruning
- Lightly prune Japanese maples while still in leaf. Select and plant maples; now is the time to see fall color.
- Prune deciduous trees and shrubs that need pruning such as crape myrtle, rose, and Spirea
- Do not prune evergreen trees in the fall, since wound closure is 20% slower.
Pests and weeds
- Visit your garden after dark with a flashlight and handpick snails and slugs. Control measures in fall help reduce populations in spring.
Feed and fertilize
- Feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons with an organic fertilizer with no nitrogen.
- Change feeding program for cymbidium. During the fall and winter, use a formula with low nitrogen and higher potassium and phosphorus monthly to promote more and bigger blooms.
- Continue with last of summer harvest.
- Plant artichokes, arugula, kale, garlic, shallots, and lettuce.
- Learn more about crops to plant in October and other activities in the edible garden.
Choosing the right plant for the right place is part of maintaining healthy plants. Consider drought tolerant, low-growing non-woody shrubs and deep-rooted trees with thick bark, leaves over needles.
Learn more about Fire-smart Landscaping.