Regional Gardening Guide - Zone 9-10
October 1 to October 30-- Discover what you should be doing right now. Our experts share gardening advice, techniques, news, and ideas to make your garden the best ever.
Here’s what’s happening in your gardening region:
It’s finally cool enough to enjoy gardening again, and even those of you in the southernmost reaches of our region will feel a little relief before long. Since the so-called warm season has already begun, now is the time to focus on your cool-season plantings. Your first priority is to plant the vegetables that take the longest to mature, such as leeks, onions, garlic, cabbage and kale, so order those if you haven’t already. Plant cool-season flowers now too; these include petunias, pansies, alyssum, dianthus, snapdragons and foxglove. Lastly, make sure you plant herbs now so that you’ll have a large selection from now through spring. Here are the things to do in your garden for the month of October.
Your Regional reporter
Steve Asbell is an illustrator, the author of Plant by Numbers and blogger of The Rainforest Garden.
To see what Steve's doing in his garden. Click Here!
1. Learn how to grow cool-season vegetables
Continue to grow and harvest warm-season vegetables like tomatoes, beans, squashes and cucumbers, but now is really the time to plant cool-season vegetables. Besides, if you plant lettuce now you’ll have the rare opportunity to harvest tomatoes and lettuce at the same time so that you can make some really good hamburgers and sandwiches – at least for about a month. But there’s more to the cool season than lettuce. If you’re impatient and want fresh produce fast, grow peas, radishes and microgreens. Plant them near the front of your beds for easy access, and thin out the seedlings as they fill in. Plant slower-growing vegetables, such as onions, cabbage, leeks and collards, in the back of your beds and provide a light mulch once they’ve developed sturdy stems.
2. Plant kale
Collard greens are king in the south, but here’s why you should give that high-falutin’ vegetable named kale a try. Plant kale if you need a tough, low-maintenance vegetable that can be harvested throughout the growing season; it’s heat-tolerant, freeze-tolerant, can be picked regularly as needed, and makes a beautiful addition to your flowerbeds. In the kitchen, kale has a nutty and bittersweet flavor that pairs well with salty and savory meats like bacon and sausage. Some kale varieties are especially attractive and well-suited to our growing zone, and the varieties listed below are no exception. Lacinato kale has long leaves and an architectural form, ‘Tronchuda Biera’ hybrid is exceptionally heat-tolerant and has paddle-shaped leaves, while ‘Dwarf Blue Curled Vates’ is compact for small spaces and has gorgeous blue-green leaves with frilly edges.
3. Learn to grow herbs
Are you having a hard time keeping vegetables alive? Grow herbs! Most herbs thrive in the cooler months and will even remain evergreen through frosts and freezes, so plant them now to enjoy months of both flavor and fragrance. Generally speaking, all herbs do best well-drained soil that won’t stay soggy after rains, good air circulation and full sun. They really don’t ask for much, but if you’re a forgetful waterer, grow drought-tolerant herbs like garlic chives, rosemary and thyme. Read the articles listed below to learn how to grow herbs in your garden.
4. Order gourmet garlic
Most garlic does poorly here, but there are a few types that still succeed in heat and mild winters. Choose rocambole types if you’re unsure of its adaptation to heat, or grow a garlic variety from a hot region; such as ‘Thai Fire’, a fast-growing hardneck turban garlic from Bangkok. Elephant garlic is technically a garlic relative, but forms large and subtly-flavored bulbs and grows so well in warm climates that it’s grown commercially in the Florida Panhandle. ‘Early Italian’ is a heat-tolerant softneck variety with gorgeous purple coloration and a mild flavor. Whichever garlic you order, plant immediately upon receiving and wait until the leaves die back in late spring before harvesting.
5. Order onion sets
Since onions should be planted from September through November here, now is the time to place you order. Choose wisely, however, because not all onions are well-suited to our area. Grow short-day varieties, especially those that have a proven track record here. Egyptian walking onions, rocambole onions like ‘red creole’, sweet yellow granex onions, and some other short day onions grow well here if you follow a few guidelines. Choose a well-drained spot that receives full sun in winter. Remember, an area that receives lots of sun now might be shaded in a couple of months. Before planting, remove all weeds, roots, rocks and debris so that the bulbs have room to grow. To prevent nematodes, amend sandy soil with lots of organic matter such as compost or composted manure. Follow spacing directions on the package and continue to carefully weed around the bulbs until they’re ready to harvest in spring.