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Wildflower seeds. October is the perfect time to plant these seeds if you want a little natural accent in your garden or if you are aiming to create a wildflower meadow or prairie. Try bluebonnets, coreopsis, poppies, Indian paintbrush and Indian blanket.
Pay particular attention to bed and soil preparations as you sow these seeds — choose a sunny site, till up all the existing grass and weeds, incorporate up to 1 inch of compost, sow seeds according to package directions and water in well.
Trees, shrubs and perennials. Look around to see if any of your mature trees or shrubs are showing signs of demise after last year's devastating drought and heat — it often takes a full year to see the damage. If any of your larger plants are on the downslide, take the opportunity now to remove them and replant. The same goes for your perennials, as fall is the perfect time to get them in the ground. Try salvias, columbine, yarrow and esperanza as well as ornamental grasses.
Naturalized bulbs. Many bulbs, like tulips, need a cooling period to gain energy to regenerate next spring. Those kinds don't work very well in our gardens (zone 7a to 8), as the weather simply doesn't typically get cold enough. Not so with naturalized bulbs, which are well suited to our environment. Try daffodils, bearded irises, muscari, spider lilies, oxblood lilies, crocuses, alliums and anemones. These bulbs typically like sunny areas and should be planted at a depth of three times the width of the bulb.
Vegetables. Cool-season vegetables are so plentiful and nutritious, so try to tuck in a few new ones this year. Broccoli, turnips, cauliflower, spinach, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, lettuce, collards and other greens can be planted now. If you are expecting a hard freeze, consider adding some row cover to protect your veggies, but otherwise these plants will take the crisper weather in stride and give you months of produce.
Ground covers. Ground covers are important for erosion control, as a low-growing accent in the front of a border or as a way to compensate for grass that will not grow under a shade tree. Choose Asian jasmine, lamb's ears, mondo grass, liriope, ajuga or periwinkle. Be sure you know which ground covers like sunny sites and which ones prefer shadier conditions, and you'll be rewarded with lush growth and good coverage.
Take care of your lawn. Be on the lookout for "brown patch" disease in your lawn, particularly if you have St. Augustine grass. It appears as dead grass in a doughnut shape with fairly green grass in the middle. In addition, take a look at the base of your grass blades — while the blades themselves can look dead, the base of them is typically green if you have brown patch. This disease is caused by many things — improper watering and fertilizing, along with warm evenings, are some of the more common causes.
Once you have properly identified your grass issue and are confident you are dealing with brown patch, you'll need to use a fungicide to kill it. If you use a fungicide and you do not have brown patch, the treatment will do your grass no good. Always follow the package directions for the best result.
Check out more early-fall lawn tips