Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Create a Birdbath
Provide a source of water for birds in your garden. You will be amazed at how many insects a hungry sparrow can devour. Think of it as your reward for setting out a birdbath. Keep the water clean and fresh, and place a rock in the center so that smaller birds can enjoy a bath, too.
Patrol for Tomato Hornworm
Tomato hornworm can munch an amazing amount of foliage overnight. Unfortunately, although 4 to 6 inches in length, these voracious creatures are very difficult to spot amidst the foliage. Look for signs of droppings on the leaves, then look up to the next set of leaves. You will usually find the hornworm munching away contentedly. Hand-pick, or spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) when caterpillars are still small; this microbial control is less effective against mature hornworms.
Remove faded flowers from agapanthus now. If you hurry, you may get another bloom from these hardy plants. Cut the flower stems at the base near the foliage to give plants a tidy appearance. Remove yellow foliage from the base of the plants. Dig and divide large clumps if you desire.
Apply Mulch Under Japanese Maples
Mulch around the base of ornamental maple trees. Acer japonica varieties, such as 'Burgundy Lace', will lose foliage color if reflected heat from nearby driveways and sidewalks is too hot. Mulching the surface of the soil under the plants keeps the ground cool and prevents colors from fading. But be sure to keep the mulch a few inches from the base of the trunk to avoid disease problems.
Shower Indoor Plants
Get indoor plants ready for winter by cleaning the foliage with a nice shower. Spray plants with a mild soap solution prior to the shower to dislodge dust, mites, and insect pests. Allow houseplants to dry in a cool, shady area. It's always a good idea to increase humidity in the winter. Dry, hot air is an invitation to insect pests such as mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. Fill saucers with pea gravel so that the pots sit up, out of standing water, which can then evaporate back up, through the foliage.