Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Now is the ideal time to plant wildflowers such as poppies and lupines from seed. Clear the ground of weeds before planting to avoid competition. Scratch the surface of the soil so that the tiny wildflower roots get a foothold after they germinate. Scatter seeds over the surface, then just barely cover with fresh potting soil. Water gently to settle the seed in place.
Clean Garden Beds
Pull up and compost spent summer annual and vegetable plants. Rake up and compost fallen leaves and debris from under shrubs and trees. By keeping the soil clean, you eliminate many fungus diseases and overwintering sites for insects. For faster composting, chop debris into small pieces and mix them together, alternating layers of green materials (fresh grass clippings) and brown material (leaves). Keep the pile moist but not soggy.
Give your lawn one final dose of fertilizer before winter arrives. Use a slow-release product that releases nutrients over a long period of time for best results in the cool months. Avoid fertilizers with high soluble nitrogen that will stimulate lush, green growth in winter. This type of growth is easy prey to lawn diseases.
Continue watering shrubs, lawns, flower beds, winter vegetable gardens, and trees until winter rains begin in earnest. With shorter days and cooler temperatures, plants use less water than earlier in the season, but they still need some water to stay healthy and to resist insect attacks.
Clean under Camellias
Good grooming is the key to success with camellias. Keep the fallen flowers raked up from under sasanqua and japonica camellia plants. If fallen flowers are allowed to stay on the ground, plants can develop a fungus disease called blossom blight. Blossom blight produces unsightly brown edges on the delicate flowers while they're still on the shrub, and buds may drop without opening.