Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Remove Blooms from Summer Vegetables
Remove any remaining flowers from summer vegetable plants. Tomatoes, squash and melons won't have time to develop before cold weather sets in. By removing the flowers, you will help the plant direct its energy into maturing existing fruits. Use your fingernails or small clippers to snip off blossoms and terminal growth at the ends of vines.
Sow Cover Crops
If you don't plan to use your vegetable garden beds over the winter, sow cover crops, also called "green manure." Cover crops improve soil nutrient levels, help prevent erosion, and encourage beneficial soil life. When planting time rolls around in next spring, all you'll need to do is mow the crops and rototill them into the existing soil. Fava beans, kale and vetch are all excellent cover crops.
Purchase Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Nurseries have a large selection of spring-blooming bulbs on hand right now. Although it is not quite time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinth or narcissus, they will produce larger and stronger flowers if they are chilled in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for four to six weeks prior to planting. Plan to plant when the soil temperature 6" below the surface is 60 degrees, usually around mid-November.
Lawns need one more application of a slow release fertilizer to help them through the cold winter months. Don't use a product high in nitrogen, because it will produce lush top growth that is susceptible to fungus disease. Also, decrease the amount of time on automatic irrigation systems.
Apply Beneficial Nematodes
If raccoons and skunks are digging up your lawn, chances are that they are looking for grubs. These grubs are the larval stage of destructive garden pests such as Japanese beetles. Treat your lawn with beneficial nematodes, sold as BioSafe Insect Control. It is not harmful to earthworms, fish, plants, honeybees or birds. Although expensive, this is an organic control that brings excellent results if applied while the grubs are still near the surface of the soil.