Here it is October already and our gardens are begging for a good old-fashioned North Coast rainstorm to refresh parched soil. Looks like we will still be dragging hose about for the next few weeks, however. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other chores to tackle in the garden this month. Consider the following:
Water: Seasonal autumn rains will most likely come later than expected. Keeping beds deeply watered at this time is a chore, but well worth it. Simply hosing down the landscape on occasion will do wonders for health and vitality.
Plant: Spring flowering bulbs, garlic sets and plenty of cool season vegetable starts abound at the local nurseries these days. Also, sow beet, pea and carrot seeds this month. This is the best month to get out into the garden and dig.
Prep: Make next spring’s food garden easy to grow by preparing vegetable beds now. Testing soil pH, adding manures and planting cover crops are the top three soil-building chores you can do now. Covering beds with rice straw mulch keeps weeds down.
Clean up: Now is the time to clean up spent foliage, stalks and vines in vegetable and flower beds. Grind up all, along with fallen leaves, and begin a compost pile. Mulching beds with whole leaves protects the soil and also provides habitat for beneficial insects, snakes, frogs and lizards.
Color up: These days you will find a good selection of fall color at the local nurseries. Rudbeckias, asters, chrysanthemums, assorted daisies and pansies all will perk up a fall garden. One of the best that will provide cheerful, bright color from now through spring is the viola. Pert little violas come in a wide variety of colors, yellow, white, lavender, purple, blue and orange. They love cool winter weather and will bloom prolifically if you keep them deadheaded and fed. You get the best value for your dollar with violas.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.