Garden center worker Jon Childers expects a frenzy of planting this month as people finally replace freeze-damaged plants, as well as tend to regular October gardening.
After the harsh freeze in February, some people went out immediately to replace dead-looking landscape, says Childers, senior horticultural adviser with Mesquite Valley Growers.
"Smarter people waited," he adds, "but once they realized the plant wasn't going to make it, it was too hot to plant."
October's the perfect time, he says. It's cool enough to work in the yard and warm enough for plants to get established before winter's cold.
Most transplanted trees and shrubs will do well, but citrus should wait until spring. If you insist on planting citrus now, says Childers, be prepared to cover it during cold nights.
To establish a tree, water every day for the first week after planting, then every other day in the second week, every third day on the third and twice in the fourth. "Then by Thanksgiving you should only need to water once a week," he says.
While you can't guess when a freeze will happen, Childers says he's confident of one thing: The garden center will have a run on frost cloths after the first below-freezing night. And that's too late.
He suggests buying frost cloths now to have on hand to cover plants when meteorologists predict freezing temps.
Also consider using a utility light holding a 40-watt bulb to hang in a tree. Then use the cloth to enclose as much of the tree as possible.
Here are some other plants to put around the yard in October:
• Winter vegetables: leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and root vegetables such as radish, onion, carrot and turnip. You can plant around any tomato plants that are still producing in the cooler temperature. Amend the soil by digging mulch or compost into it.
• Winter flowers: Early September rains probably plumped up a lot of summer flowering plants, says Childers. You'll have to decide when to finally pull those up for winter color from pansy, snapdragon, flowering cabbage, alyssum, cyclamen and fall mum, to name a few varieties. As with the vegetable garden, add soil amendments before planting.
• Winter grass: Scalp the Bermuda grass and overseed with winter rye. Sow before the night temperatures get into the 40s.
• Spring wildflowers: Sow native wildflowers, African daisy, sweet pea and other spring color. Lightly scrape the dirt with a rake to create grooves, spread the seed and lightly cover with mulch. If winter rains come, a nice bed of blooms will appear starting in February. You can help things along by sprinkling water.
Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at firstname.lastname@example.org