October Southwest Desert Garden Chores and Tips

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October Garden Chores and Tips

Finally, it’s fall in the desert. For the most part, the triple digit days are gone for this year. Working in the garden becomes fun again in October.

What To Do in October


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  • Apply potassium on Bermuda to help it to come out of dormancy in the spring with greater vigor.
  • Conserve water, and consider not planting a winter lawn.
  • The second week of October to the beginning of November is the average window for planting winter lawns.
  • Perennial Rye will provide a deep green lawn. Mow existing Bermuda lawns to about one-half inch. Sow at the rate of 10 to 15 pounds per l,000 square feet.
  • After initial soaking, water three or four times a day for 3-5 minutes to keep the seeds moist. Keep moist for about two weeks until the seed germinates and then water once a day.
  • You should be able to mow the third week after sowing. Mow 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height and water once a week.


  • With the exception of palms, October is the best month for planting trees and shrubs. Dig a hole three times the size of the root ball. Plant the tree or shrub so the top of the root ball is slightly higher than ground level. Backfill with the native soil, phosphate and Ironite, and twelve fertilizer briquettes – three under the root ball and three in three levels as you backfill. Now you won’t have to fertilize for a year. Run the hose in the hole as you backfill to settle the native soil and drive out air pockets.
  • Water newly planted shrubs and trees once per week.
  • Cut back watering of all trees and shrubs by about one-third as weather cools, but continue to water deeply. Don’t over water or fungus will grow. For example, if you’re watering your citrus every week, stretch this out to every two weeks.
  • Clean dead branches out trees and shrubs.
  • Trim unwanted sprouts from the interior of your citrus trees. This makes it easier to harvest fruit.


  • This is the season for planting flowers, and local nurseries will have plenty.
  • Dianthus, geraniums and petunias bloom continuously.
  • Lobelia (bright blue) and alyssum borders are popular. They come in white, lavender, pink, or Easter bonnet, which is a white-lavender mix.
  • If you want to plant bulbs, plant them the first of November. Freesias and paper white Narcissus will come up year after year without much maintenance, as will Anomie, Crocus, Gladiolus, Iris, or Ranunculus. Hyacinths and Tulips need to be put into a paper sack and chilled in your refrigerator for 4-6 weeks or they probably won’t bloom. For a nicer look plant bulbs in groups or clusters instead of rows.
  • Resume full fertilizing of established roses as the weather cools.
  • Keep spent rose blooms pruned.
  • Plant wildflowers now for a late spring exhibition. Mexican gold poppies, California poppies, desert bluebells, desert marigold, desert lupine, arroyo lupine, dyssodia, firewheel, red flax, Mexican hat, spreading fleabane, desert senna, verbena and sunflowers. Water the flower bed daily until the seeds germinate, and once a week thereafter if there is no rain.


  • Plant your winter vegetables in October, both the leafy kinds and root producers. Plant so that seedlings will be about 1-1/2 inches from one another.
  • Plant from seeds: beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, card, collard greens, endive, kale, lettuce, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, peas, radishes, rutabagas, spinach, turnips
  • Transplants: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, garlic, lettuce

Don’t Make These Garden Mistakes in October

  1. Don’t fertilize established trees and shrubs now. Save fertilizing until February.
  2. Don’t water the lawn when it’s dark.
  3. Don’t dethatch Bermuda in the Fall.
  4. Don’t overwater grass. Allow the soil to dry out between watering.
  5. Don’t use pre-emergent herbicides where you will be planting seeds.

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