An Alameda Garden: What to Do in the Garden in October

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

What to Do in the Garden in October

With any luck, El Nino rains will start kicking in in another month or so, but it's likely we have at least one more month of dry, dry, dry. For October, let's focus on cleaning up and preparing for the hoped-for rainy season as well as beginning the first plantings for next spring.


  • Your soil may be pretty tired after a productive summer. This is a good time to run a soil test to see what, if any, nutrients are lacking.
  • Make sure your garden is ready for whatever amount of rainfall and winter storms El Nino may bring. That means clearing debris, removing dead or damaged branches, and securing or protecting garden furniture and ornaments.
  • Update your garden journal or make notes on your calendar regarding what worked and what didn't work in your summer garden. You'll be glad next year to have these reminders so you can adjust your garden plans and avoid repeating mistakes.


  • Sow seeds of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) for bloom next year.
  • Begin planting spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths. In addition to planting bulbs outdoors, you can force containers of bulbs for indoor blooms as well.
  • Plant cool-season annual crops (see last month's planting guide for a list) as well as strawberries (in mild-winter regions), artichokes (bare-root), garlic, shallots, and blueberries (in mild-winter regions).
  • Root cuttings of winter-growing succulents such as senecios, aeoniums, and sempervivums.


  • Keep on fire-safe landscaping by keeping dry brush and debris cleared.
  • Divide gladioli, belladonna lilies, daylilies, and other perennials as needed.
  • Cover or move potted poinsettias to keep them in complete darkness 12 hours each night in order to stimulate reblooming.
  • Stop deadheading roses.
  • Thin and divide groundcovers as needed to clear out debris and fill in bare spots.
  • Weed and mulch.


  • Keep watering as much as your area's water restrictions will allow, but make sure newly planted trees, perennials, and edibles get sufficient water to get established.
  • Water potted poinsettias to stimulate reblooming.


  • Begin applying a half-strength fish emulsion solution to any edibles or perennials you planted last month once they've been in the ground for six weeks.
  • Begin feeding potted poinsettias.


  • If you have clay soil that's gotten hard during the dry summer, layer on compost and mulch and let the coming winter rains (fingers crossed!) loosen the soil.
  • If the flowering and fruiting in your garden has been disappointing and a soil test indicates that the pH level of your soil is high (above 7), you can amend it slowly make it more acidic. Acidifying amendments include sulfur, aluminum sulfate, iron sulfate, and the most commonly used amendment--sphagnum peat. Work the amendments in to a depth of 12 to 18 inches so it will affect the soil at root level.
For more details on caring for your garden each month, check out my book, California Month-by-Month Gardening.

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