Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Fall Lawn Care
Fertilize your lawn with a slow-release product that will carry it through the winter. Also, check for signs of mole or raccoon damage -- torn up patches of turf or tunneling. If animal damage is evident, look for grubs just below the thatch layer. If you find more than one or two grubs in a 4-inch-square patch, drench the lawn with a solution of soapy water.
Deer are moving down from the hills in search of water and food. If you live in a rural area, you may experience the "amazing disappearing garden trick" unless you come up with a plan to deter hungry deer from foraging in your yard. My friend Thais Powers swears by this recipe for home-made deer repellent: Mix one egg, beaten; 1/2 cup milk; 1/2 teaspoon oil; 1 teaspoon liquid soap; hot chili peppers; and 1 quart water. Strain through cheesecloth, store in refrigerator. Apply by pouring the mixture into a sprayer and misting susceptible plants frequently, especially after a rain or irrigating.
Purchase Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Although it is not quite time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, or narcissus, they will produce larger and stronger flowers if they are chilled in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for four to six weeks prior to planting. Plan to plant when the soil temperature 6 inches below the surface is 60 degrees, usually around mid-November.
Thin Camellia Buds
For larger flowers, pinch out all but one bud every 4 inches along the branches of camellias. Make sure to leave buds further down each stem for continuous bloom during the spring. Fertilize plants with half-strength acid fertilizer. Large amounts of nitrogen now causes bud drop.
Reset your irrigation systems to decrease the amount of water going to lawns and shrubs. The days are getting shorter and plants aren't using nearly as much water as in high summer. Container plants can also be pruned back. Feel the soil with your fingers; if it is dry 2 inches below the surface, water. If the soil still feels damp, wait a day or two, then check again. Water if necessary.