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Cooler October Weather Makes Gardening a Breeze

It's the optimal time to plant winter vegetables, herbs, garlic and ground cover

October usually brings cooler weather to Southern California (although hot Santa Ana winds can wreak havoc). Cooler fall temperatures mean a more pleasant gardening experience, according to experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly soil products made from organic material collected from more than 50 California communities including those in Santa Barbara County.

Remove summer vegetable plants, plant winter vegetables: Your heartiest summer vegetables will produce well into fall, but many vegetable plants will have stopped producing no matter how much loving care you provide. It’s time to remove them and plant winter vegetables.

October is the optimal time to plant beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, parsley, peas, radish, spinach, potatoes, turnips, winter zucchini and celery. Revive your garden soil before planting with a 2-inch layer of compost.

Update herb garden: Plant fresh oregano, parsley, rosemary, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel and thyme. Plant Italian basil for nearly year-round leaf production.

Plant cloves of garlic: If you love garlic, you’ll love the fresh taste of garlic from your garden. Plant cloves with the pointy side up, 1 to 3 inches deep and 3 to 5 inches apart. During fall and winter, the cloves will form a strong root system. Expect leaves in spring with a clove harvest in summer. Plant in raised beds or in well-draining soil.

Plant ground cover: Plant perennial ground cover once and watch it spread into a beautiful quilt of greens and flowers. Ground cover that does particularly well in Southern California include creeping thyme, lamium, vinca, primrose, armeria, mondo grass and lamb’s ear. Don’t forget native wildflowers. Choose a western seed mix that has both annuals and perennials including California poppies, larkspur, linaeria, clarkia, Chinese houses, godetia and gypsophila. Spread these seeds in your flower garden. They will thrive after winter rains.

Aerate lawns: Soil under lawns compact over time preventing water and air reach from reaching roots. October is a good time to aerate your lawn. An aerator will lift out 1-inch “plugs” of soil from the grass, leaving plenty of room for water and air to connect with roots. Aerators are usually available for rent at equipment rental stores.

Harvest pumpkins: Pumpkins are ready to harvest once their connecting vines are dry and the pumpkin rind is hard. Leave a 2-inch stem attached when removing pumpkins from the vine. If uncut, pumpkins can remain edible for up to six months after harvesting. After carving a jack-o’-lantern, save the seeds for eating. Separate them from the pulp, wash and then dry thoroughly. Coat them with oil, sprinkle them garlic powder or any other seasoning. Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and cook for 25 minutes in a 400-degree oven, turning them at least once. Remove from the oven and lightly sprinkle with salt and toss. Cool before eating.

Prepare for hot October winds: Santa Ana winds are always possible in October. While you can generally cut back on watering in October, hot winds can dry out gardens in a matter of hours. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Make sure just-planted young trees are properly staked to withstand strong winds.

Click here for more gardening tips.

— Diane Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.

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