October is the beginning of our longest growing season and the most important time to plant for flower color now and through the spring. This time is known as the "cool season."
Get ready to plant "cool season" annuals, "showy perennials" and spring blooming bulbs. Watch for these annuals as they become available at your local nursery: calendula; candytuft; chrysanthemum (the small bedding type); dianthus; English daisy; Iceland poppies; larkspur; nemesia; ornamental cabbage, kale; pansies; primrose, English; schizanthus; snapdragons stock, and sweet pea. For shade planting, watch for primrose obconica and primrose malicoides.
Many varieties of "showy perennials" will be available in 4-inch pots. Plant these perennials (and biennials) for a jump start on permanent color in your garden: Canterbury bells; coreopsis; cyclamen (for shade); delphinium; dusty miller; foxglove; hollyhock; nicotiana; rehmannia; salvias and Shasta daisy.
For the best selection, buy bulbs now and store them in paper bags in a cool, dry location until planting time. For added insurance when growing bulbs, hold off on planting until November, when the soil and air temperature cools off.
Tulips and hyacinths need to be placed in a refrigerator after Oct. 15 and chilled for six weeks. Plant these bulbs immediately after taking them out of cold storage.
Source: Cristin Fusano, Color Specialist/Horticulturist, Sherman Library and Gardens
. . . AND GENERAL OCTOBER CARE TIPS
De-thatch or aerate your lawn to prevent disease and pests during the winter.
Prepare rhododendrons and azaleas for winter by mulching heavily around their base with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.
When planting bulbs, be generous with the bone meal. Place some at the bottom of the planting hole, add a little dirt and then the bulb so the bulb doesn't touch the bone meal.
If you're thinking of planting ground cover, plant it soon. If you do it now, the root system will become established before spring arrives and growth accelerates.
Thin camellia buds now for bigger and better blooms later.
For beautiful red and orange color in the fall, plant a pomegranate tree or shrub.
To give your yard a fresh, new look, uproot plants that have overgrown their space.
Tend to your roses by removing dead wood, twiggy growth and leaves with spots or mildew. But don't prune them now.
Before you plant perennials or annuals, prepare the planting bed well: Dig down 18 inches and work in organic matter.
For a "berry" good holiday season, plant berried shrubs for garden color and holiday decorations.
Keep fallen leaves raked off the lawn and out of flower beds. Certain pests love to set up house under them.
A good choice for cool-season color is the bird of paradise.
Stop feeding garden roses now because they are heading into their dormant period.
For more annual color during winter, check out fairy primroses, stock and snapdragons.
Source: California Assn. of Nurserymen.