Fall Tips: October Gardening in Southern California and Like Climates

Welcome to fall! Here in SoCal, it’s a lovely time of the year with some of the nicest weather. So… Why not spend some time outside?

October is a perfect time to do a lot of fall planting, especially perennials, ground covers, herbs, roses, trees and shrubs. It’s also perfect weather to plant native plants and wildflowers. The winter rains will help them germinate beautifully.

If you plant beds now is the time to do it with cool-season flowers like calendula, candytuft, pansies, sweet peas, foxgloves, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and stock. Cool-season veggies and herbs like carrots, broccoli, peas, cauliflower, radishes, parsley, potatoes, cilantro, dill, fennel, lettuces and greens can be planted now too.

Those of you who live in the hot desert regions now have more options to plant certain warm-season plants. However, don’t plant melons and corn; they need to be planted in late winter. South African bulbs like watsonia, ixia, ipheion, freesia, croscosmia and babiana can be planted in October, along with oxalis, lilies and Tazetta-type narcissus like paperwhites.

When working with bulbs, you might need to chill them. Certain bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses need pre-chilling for spring bloom. You can buy grape hyacinths, ranunculus, daffodils and anemones now, but don’t plant them yet. Store them in a cool, dry place like your shed or garage, and plant them in November.

Unless you’re in the very warmest regions, don’t plant tropicals yet; they could suffer frost injury. Save plants like citrus, avocado, bananas, heliconia, palms, gingers, plumerias and hibiscus for planting in late spring.

If you have perennials, October is dividing time! This is especially true for spring-blooming perennials as they need time to establish good growth before they flower. When you’re dividing your perennials, it’s a good idea to get rid of the remnants of your warm-season plantings like faded annual herbs, veggies and flowers.

You can also do some fall pruning now. Cut off dead branches from trees and shrubs and shape them for winter growth. Geraniums need a little TLC, too. Cutting them back helps to renew them and keep them from getting leggy. Speaking of TLC, give your roses some fertilizer to help encourage further blooms.

Lawns benefit from some fall-specific fertilizer as well as dethatching and aerating. However, if you plan to over seed your lawn with fescue or rye, quit fertilizing and watering Bermuda grass and overseed now. If you’re not overseeding, keep up the food and water to delay dormancy.

It’s also time to adjust your irrigation system to water less frequently as it gets cooler and the sun is lower in the sky. However, you shouldn’t adjust the amount of irrigation. If you have a “smart” controller system, properly setup, it will handle itself. For those in areas where the ground freezes, you’ll need to winterize your irrigation system to prevent damage to your system.