In My Garden – October 2018

Oh dear, I think I have missed a couple of months. The garden has managed to limp along without me for September while we were traveling, a very competent gardener house-sat for us. But, since she gardens for a living, I didn’t want her to do much more than water my plants. She had quite enough to do taking care of the two dogs. So here we are, in fall. Time clean up, prune, cut things back and put the garden to bed for next spring. It’s a bit of a sad chore because many things are still blooming. But they will be all the happier for it next year. I expect the delivery of half a truckload of compost tomorrow afternoon and 10 yards of organic soil the next, everything will get a few inches of nutrition to carry them through the winter months. The organic soil is for filling my new raised beds and to amend the newly dug beds.

October is all about putting things down for the winter, getting prepared for spring, and weeding. There is always endless weeding, although I don’t mind it too much.

I am starting to dig an expansion of the garden bed in the back of the house. That bed is all about flowers and herbs. My intention is to have flowers blooming 12 months of the year. Cut flowers to make me happy in the house, and to keep the pollinators happy outside (including the hummingbirds).

Beginnings of new expanded island bed

By the end of this week I hope to have dug over to the bed on the right, with a 4 foot path between them. Since we had a little rain this past week, the ground isn’t as difficult to dig.

Updated and now finished, it took a few days. Originally I had planned a more off-center path, but the dogs like to run straight out the sliding glass door and across the meadow. So, in respect to dog paths, we have placed it more to the center. I am afraid that otherwise they will run over the middle of the plants. I once read that, if you have dogs and are planning a garden, you should first see where the ‘dog paths’ are, then plant accordingly. They were wise words if all creatures are to live happily in a garden.

Garden Islands with the Path laid out

I’ve had my exercise digging and Casey has been a help as well. She is sure there must be reason I am doing all that digging…something down there…maybe a gopher if she digs deep enough!

Both Anna’s

Annas Hummingbird Photo from UC Davis

and Allen’s

Allen’s Hummingbird female, at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. May 2008. Photo from UC Davis

hummingbirds are commonly found in this area. But only the Anna hummingbirds are known to stick around during the winter. Unfortunately all of the hummers I’ve seen in my garden are the Allen’s, which migrate. The Allen’s start to disappear about this time of year (it is a sad day when I notice they are gone) and come back in late February or early March. At least that is when I first noticed them earlier this year. Last winter there were no hummers in my garden for months, I was worried they would never come back. I would like to attract more of the Annas so we have those delightful little birds all year round. We were so busy with getting prepared for the sale of the Oakland house at end of last year that I wasn’t paying much attention to winter food sources. This year is different. I am hopeful with a year-round food source there will be more birds.

Salvia Amistad

Among the plants that they like, the salvias and sages are still blooming; also nicotiana, abutilon, and cuphea (although the hummingbirds don’t seem to have discovered the cuphea yet). The salvias should bloom through the winter. I planted 6 large ones and they bloom almost all year, 3 more plants are ordered for the expanded bed. I won’t cut any of them back until spring. The new plantings this month include 2 pineapple sages in large containers. The hummingbirds have already discovered the red tubular flowers, although the plants are still small.

I had swarms of native bumblebees in the garden this spring and summer but their numbers have now dramatically decreased, the weather has been cooler and they may have retreated to their dens. I am seeing a predominance of European bees.

The idea is that by keeping a wide variety of plants I will attract more pollinators to the garden, that’s my goal. So much of our agriculture is based on a mono-culture, not good overall for nature. In my own garden I am less concerned about a color or “pulled together” scheme, and more focused on a large variety of plants.

The dahlias are beautiful although they seem to acquired a dusting of powdery mildew in my absence. It has been a very foggy summer (thankfully because of all the fires) but that has taken a toll on the plants and I wasn’t here to spray with anything to help them. I think it is too late now, I will be cutting them back as soon as the foliage dies. I was able to cut a large bouquet for the kitchen counter from the ones that are still blooming.


The yarrow is prolific, the white one was part of a package mixed wildflower seeds and seems to really like it in the garden.


That is Lucy, our cat, enjoying the sun in the middle of the bed.

There is still quite a bit of color…dahlias, yarrow, black-eyed Susan’s (from that same wildflower mix), white and purple toadflax, snapdragons are on their second flowering (with our mild winters they are considered short-lived perennials), and rudbeckia.

Mixed Island Plantings

I am in love with the Verbena bonariensis, it floats above the other plantings. The sparrows love its seeds and perch on the long stalks as they wave in any breeze. It is so open and airy that it doesn’t block other plants.

Verbena bonariensis

The tomatoes are mostly finished, they haven’t done very well with our foggy summer. Maybe next year I will have a small greenhouse.

Tomato plants in a half wine barrel

Sad looking aren’t they?

Anyway, that’s my quick catch up. The compost and soil have been delivered so next month I will include an update on plantings and the raised beds. Seeds have been ordered for a winter vegetable garden.

Mom, I’ll just keep the dirt from blowing away. Casey on the job.



12 thoughts on “In My Garden – October 2018

  1. Gosh Liz, you have your hands full there with such a beautiful garden. Love all the plans you have and that new patch is starting to look mighty gorgeous. I can only imagine what next spring will be…… and those hummers, wow! aren’t you lucky to get them this late. This is indeed a time to get the current season closed down for the year and to plan for spring. You are way ahead of the game. I’ve yet to get things shut down here, but then we do have our daughter’s wedding to attend in NYC, so I’ve been otherwise delayed with the garden. Still, we’ve enjoyed temps in the 80’s till tomorrow I’m told, and then our Fall temps kick in, a bit late, but we’ve enjoyed the warm days and cooler nights.

    • Thank you Loretta, it is a lot of work but work I love. Well, I would say you have your hands full with a wedding. Congratulations! I wouldn’t be outside if it was that hot, I have a very narrow temperature range for working in the garden. Such a wimp I am! I don’t like hot weather or snow.

  2. Liz, what a fine garden and as a fellow gardener I can see your labors of love all about in your garden. End of the season in the garden is always moving for me. I’m sad to have to end the season, but happy to start thinking about what to do the next season. I’ll never forget the first time my Swedish wife saw a hummingbird, she was memorized. We don’t see those lovely creatures over here on this side of the world.

    • Thank you Ron, the end of the season gives me mixed emotions as well. But I will be happy to have the rain back as watering is a bit of a chore. We don’t get any rain from around May to the end of October. The hummingbirds are indeed a miracle, they are currently fighting over the plants and feeders in the garden, so amazing that creatures so small can be quite fierce.

  3. Hi Julie, it is a big garden as the fenced area is about 2 acres. Not all of it is planted though (at least not yet). Casey is a dear and wants to be around when I am outside. She was fascinated by the smells just a few inches down underground. Thank you for visiting.

  4. I;ve missed a few posts! I have to say you’re making me tired, lol!!! I can’t wait to see what it all looks like in the spring! Out here, we have to dig up the dahlias and bring them in, then replant in the spring! I was hoping to get a lot of work done here (after three summers of neglect) this fall but it has rained and rained…maybe we’ll get a break.

    • Wish you could send some of that rain our way. There is a lot to do (I should say a lot of work) in the garden right now for any gardener in any climate. Our weather is temperate enough that we can leave dahlias in the ground over the winter and they seem to do fine. I’ve ordered 5 more from Swan’s, to arrive in spring. Time to dig a larger dahlia bed. The strange thing is that I brought my current ones from our Oakland garden, and the colors have changed. I had, what I thought, was a light pink one but now it is more magenta. I hadn’t heard of soil type or pH having an effect on color.

      • It certainly wasn’t as foggy, and it was warmer in Oakland. That could be it. The soil was also clay, here it is more sand. The pH is different, more acid here because of all the redwood trees. It’s interesting. On the whole the dahlias like it here much better and have grown larger. But the pink ones are a much darker color, the others seem to be about the same.

Leave a Reply