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October Garden Checklist

What to Plant: Low Elevations

Plant low-maintenance succulents, such as cacti, agaves and aloes, in areas protected from direct afternoon sun. Despite their reputation as hard-core desert survivors, succulents are prone to sunburn if exposed to full, unfiltered sunlight. For a low-growing cactus that sprawls to 6 feet wide, plant claret cup hedgehog (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), which produces large orange-red flowers in summer. Cape aloe (Aloe ferox) is a low-maintenance South African native that can reach more than
5 feet tall and thrives in partial shade.

Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus) is a tree native to the Mediterranean that does well in the hot, dry Sonoran climate. Growing up to
25 feet tall and wide, mastic is a good option for planting adjacent to pools, as it is one of the least messy trees recommended for our low elevation. To create a feel of the forest in the desert, try Afghan pine (Pinus eldarica), a large shade tree that reaches upward of 50 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Plumbago cultivar ‘Imperial Blue’ is a shrub that can grow as tall and wide as 10 feet and blooms pale blue flowers almost year-round, except in the hottest summer months. To avoid problems with branches interfering with buildings, fences and power lines, plant trees at a distance at least as far away as half the length of the mature spread.


Most leafy greens, such as arugula, spinach, kale and leaf lettuce, as well as root vegetables, including radish, beet, carrot and turnip, can be planted from seed now. Follow planting instructions found on the seed packet and be sure to record what you planted where; it will make it easier to remember in a few weeks when it is time to thin the seedlings out. Transplant broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, head lettuce and cabbage, which take longer to mature.

Transplant parsley, mint, thyme, cilantro, oregano, dill and most other herbs, except basil, which is best planted in late spring.
For a colorful show next spring, sow seeds of wildflowers, such as California poppy, lupine, scarlet flax, owl clover, globemallow, nasturtium and bells of Ireland. Transplant snapdragon, petunia, dianthus, geranium and begonia for immediate beauty.

What to Plant: Middle and High Elevations

Plant spring-blooming crocus, daffodil, tulip and bearded iris in a hole 5 inches deep with the pointed end up and the flat end down. Add water as you backfill to remove air pockets and ensure good contact between the bulb and the soil for healthy root growth.

Take advantage of the last warm days of early fall to plant trees, shrubs and woody vines. Western dogwood (Cornus occidentalis) is a large shrub that grows up to 12 feet tall and wide and produces cream-colored flowers in the spring. Another spring bloomer, crabapple (Malus spp.) is a small tree that comes in a rainbow of flower hues ranging from purple and red to pink and white. Woods’ rose (Rosa woodsii) is a pink rose adapted to the highest elevations, up to 11,000 feet. Water new plantings at least once a week during their first winter, unless there is precipitation in the form of rain or snow.

Garden Maintenance: Low Elevations

Once vegetable, herb and flower seedlings have reached an inch or two in height, thin so that individual plants are not crowded. Consult the seed packet for the correct spacing, which may range anywhere from 2 to 12 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the greenery.

Cut spring-planted tomatoes back to stalks about 1 foot in height to stimulate a fresh flush of growth and blooms for a fall harvest. After cutting, don’t let the plants dry out. Keep the soil moist but not saturated, like a damp sponge.

The best way to know if the fruit is ripe is to do a taste test. Pomegranate arils can be sweet and juicy even if the outside of the fruit is not yet bright red. Harvest one fruit each week, starting now, to gauge their journey to perfection.

Garden Maintenance: Middle Elevations

Less supplemental water is needed as temperatures cool in the fall. Water perennials, shrubs and trees when the soil is dry enough to make it difficult to push a screwdriver 3 inches into the ground.

Evenly spread 5 pounds of ammonium phosphate per 1,000 square feet of turf and 2 tablespoons per rose bush. For other fertilizer types, observe the label for the correct amount. Follow-up with irrigation to dissolve the fertilizer and move it into the root zone.

Garden Maintenance: High Elevations

Prepare garden beds for spring planting. Clear last season’s annual flowers and vegetables from beds, and cover the ground with a 4- to 5-inch-thick layer of mulch to suppress weed germination.


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