Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs October2001
WILDFLOWER SEED, WATERING & COCHINEAL

WILDFLOWERS

It's October, but has it cooled down yet?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  If day temperatures are staying consistently below the mid 90's, you can begin planting winter flowers such as Petunia, Snapdragon, Stock, Calendula, Lobelia, Alyssum, Pansy, Dianthus etc. and winter veggies such as Spinach, Chard, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Lettuce, Brussel Sprouts etc.  Through October and November and even into December is the time to sow wildflower seed.  African Daisy (shades of Yellow and Orange) and California Poppy are the most common but Red Flax, Toadflax, Mexican Hat, Blue Bells and especially the wildflower mixtures offer more variety.  To sow seed, rough up the area with a rake, evenly cast out seed, lightly rake in then thoroughly sprinkle down the whole area.  You've just done the easy part.  The hard part is the daily vigilance necessary from now on.  The area must be kept moist constantly for seed germination to occur.  You may actually be out there 2 to 3 times (or more!) a day sprinkling away, especially if it's a hot and windy day.  Try not to disturb newly germinating seeds, and when you start to see lots of them let the surface dry out slightly between waterings.  Now you've got all these neat little seedlings popping up and are thrilled.  But so is somebody else-our cute little bunnies and cheery little birds.  "Thank You!" they say " for the delicious snacks!  To show our appreciation we're leaving you some shredded leaves and some fertilizer pellets."  To avoid these bread & butter notes you'll have to surround the area with chicken wire to keep out rabbits and possibly lay shade fabric or frost cloth over seedlings to protect them from birds and squirrels.  Eventually seedlings will get big enough to fend for themselves.  Also if we have cool, rainy weather, the furry friends are not so desperate and you can remove protection.

FRUIT TREES

October is an excellent time to plant deciduous (lose leaves in winter) fruit trees such as Peaches, Plums, Apples and Nectarines.  These trees usually look pretty shabby after a summer roasting in their containers but will be more than ready to put out nice new leaves and flowers in spring.  You may get a few fruits too.

Reduce water on established Grapes, Fruit trees and Citrus and do not fertilize as you don't want to promote new growth before winter.

For those of you lucky enough to have a Boojum Tree survive the summer, begin watering regularly after it leafsout.  Get this, a man had to remove a good sized one from his yard because it was too ugly for the neighborhood!
 
WATERING

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WATER MY NEWLY PURCHASED PLANT?  It goes like this.  You've selected a pretty flower, tree, shrub or cactus and are ready to pay for it.  Innocently you ask a nurseryperson, "How often should I water this?"  They answer, "When the soil is dry  beneath the surface and or the leaves are drooping."  "Well," you ask, "How can I tell if the soil is dry?" "Well, you just have to stick your finger in the soil and see if it feels moist beneath the surface in and around the rootball." "Oh, How often would this be?" "Well," they say, "it  depends on the temperature, how fast the plant is growing, if it's in a pot or in the ground, sun or shade, type of soil, if it's recently rained, and so on." "Okay," you say, "but how often should I water it?"  Would this be once a day? Once a week? What?" The nursery person says, "You'll just have to feel around in the soil near the rootball to see if it's dry.  How long it takes a plant to dry out depends on many factors." "Yes, I know this," you think with annoyance, but say "I just want to know how often to water it."  The nurseryperson (who is also a little annoyed but hopefully wise enough not to show it) finally says "Just water it thoroughly once a week." Now everybody is happy (except maybe the plant). You momentarily think you might ask what "thoroughly" means, but decide not to go there-to everyone's relief.  "Whew!" thinks the nurseryperson.  "Oh, but just a second!" You ask, "What about this plant? How often should I water it?"
 
COCHINEAL SCALE

The white, gloppy stuff you see all over some Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia sp.) is produced by the cochineal insect.  Naturally, their favorites are the purple padded ones, the ones we like best too.  The insects themselves are under this stuff and live by sucking juices from the plant.  They have been and still are a source of red dye for textiles and for some foods.  A heavy infestation looks pretty bad and eventually weakens the plant.  To control the problem, first take off and dispose of the most densely covered pads, then use a forceful blast of water to dislodge as much of the goop as possible.  You'll really see the red dye run now. Swab off any remaining globs with rubbing alcohol.  An option is to now spray the plant with an insecticide labeled for scale or mealybug.  They'll probably be back, but are easily controlled if eliminated in the early stages.
 
BOUGAINVILLEAS

Remember when planting Bougainvillea to be very careful not to disturb the root system.  Do not pull the plant out of the can by the stem and do not compress the can or roll on the ground to loosen the rootball.  The best thing is to cut down the sides of the can and carefully lift the whole plant out, or cut the bottom out of the can, set the plant in the hole then cut down sides and lift the can out.  If the rootball does break up, remove leaves from the plant to lessen evaporation and hope for the best.

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Web Comments george@mswn.com September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004