Whether they're the houseplants that you put out on the patio for the summer or frost-tender plants you want to save, this is the time to move them indoors, and here’s why: Although our nights are still well above freezing, plants need to acclimate to the indoor environment before you start turning on the heater regularly.
Be sure to wash them thoroughly and inspect them for any insects that may have taken up residence while they were vacationing outside. Usually you can dislodge any hitchhikers with a strong spray of water but if that doesn't do the trick, spray them with a mild insecticidal soap or one of the other mild organic herbal sprays like oil of thyme.
If you want to decorate for Halloween, there is a lot of plant material you can harvest from your own garden or nearby woods. Manzanita branches can often be found on the ground and make great arrangements, combined with nandina or other berries. Some of the trees have started to turn color, and their leaves can also be used for wreaths. The leaves of New Zealand flax last a long time and add fall color in bouquets.
Mums are the classic fall flower. They come in nearly every color, except blue, and the flowers have many shapes, from daisy to spider mums. They are perennials and make good additions to the garden. Best of all, they make excellent cut flowers.
This October has had the perfect weather, allowing fall color to develop in our trees, shrubs and perennials. Warm days, cool nights and not a lot of wind or heavy rain all help plants to attain and keep those bright reds, oranges and yellows we love.
Here's a short list of small, colorful plants you can easily find space for even in the smaller garden.
* Japanese barberry turn yellow, orange or red. They develop red berries and are deer resistant.
* Not only are blueberries good for you, but their foliage also turns a beautiful yellow-orange in the fall.
* Oakleaf hydrangea leaves take on burgundy hues.
* Crape myrtle shrubs explode with brilliant red and orange color.
* Pomegranate bushes turn bright yellow
* Spirea foliage varies from red and orange to yellow.
If you are at odds, like me, with squirrels that dig up everything while burying acorns for the winter, delay planting your bulbs until Thanksgiving, when they've finished stocking the pantry. Store your bulbs in the fridge or a cool place until then.
If you just have to plant some on a beautiful autumn day, cover the area with flat stones or chicken wire.
Don't prune now
One last thing, and you'll be happy to hear this: Fall is not a good time to prune. Wounds heal slowly, leaving them more susceptible to disease.
As a general rule, don't prune when leaves are falling or forming. Wait to prune most trees until late in the dormant season or late spring after leaves and needles form. To avoid sap flow on birches and maples, prune after leaves mature.
Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional at Plant Works in Ben Lomond, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Contact her at email@example.com or JanNelsonLandscapeDesign