October Tips & Events for Santa Clara County
"Autumn repays the earth the leaves which summer lent it." ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799)
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Become a UC Master Gardener
Giving plant advice to the public at an event
Are you interested in becoming a Master Gardener? We are a group of passionate volunteers who enjoy educating the public with science-based horticultural research from UC. We’re looking for enthusiastic candidates to join us. Maybe that’s you!

Our next training class will begin in March 2022. Visit our website to learn about our program and what we do as Master Gardeners. Then sign up for a Zoom information session on November 8th or 13th to hear more about the 2022 training and learn how to apply. We look forward to meeting you.
Monthly Tips
Leave the Leaves

Nature has been growing plants successfully for millions of years, and the way of nature is to leave fallen leaves in place. They provide a mulch layer while they slowly break down and return nutrients to the soil and then back to the plants. Particularly during a drought, having the soil covered is important for moisture retention. If the leaves are diseased, they need to be removed and put out with the yard waste. If they are in an inconvenient place like a sidewalk or lawn, they can be relocated to bare soil or added to an already mulched area. Use rakes and brooms whenever possible. Gas-powered leaf blowers create noise and exhaust pollution, and all leaf blowers contribute to air pollution by propelling dust into the air.
Photo: Natural leaf decomposition
Photo by Jacqueline Macou
Persimmon Season

Persimmon season is here. The skin of the fruit turns orange when fully ripe. The flat bottomed Fuyu persimmons will still be fairly firm when ready and can be eaten raw like a crispy apple or sliced up and cooked into an apple-style pie. Fruit that falls from the tree early may continue to ripen on the counter despite the green skin. Heart-shaped Hachiya persimmons will feel like jelly inside and are more commonly used in baking. If you ever eat an unripe Hachiya persimmon, you will gain a new understanding of the word “astringent.” The leaves turn a brilliant orange and fall off while fruit is still on the tree, making it super easy for birds and squirrels to spot the fruit. The wildlife will usually let us know when fruit is ripening; try to race them to it and don’t leave it on the ground to attract more critters. If the tree doesn’t work out for some reason, it is also prized for its beautiful wood.

Photo: Persimmons, by Jacqueline Macou
Winter Soil Protection
Areas of the garden that are not actively planted still need protection to support soil life and prevent soil erosion. Cover crops are one option. Their roots break up the soil, and if they are legumes, like fava beans, they add essential nitrogen. Mulches hold the soil in place and help prevent weeds from germinating. Unlike rocks and synthetic mulches, organic mulches like leaves, wood chips, or straw also slowly break down and add nutrients to the soil. A top layer of an inch or two of compost will slowly work down into the soil, amending it with organic matter. Manure from herbivores can also be spread over the top of the soil. Even fresh manure, which could burn plants if applied directly, can be used over a bare area to decompose in place and be ready for the next planting season.
Photo by Jack Kelly Clark UC
Photo: Straw mulch, by Jack Kelly Clark, UC
Kohlrabi - by Jack Kelly Clark- UC
Cool-Season Vegetables

There’s still time to plant cool-season vegetables. And hopefully there will be rain to help them grow! A big advantage of cool-season vegetables is that they need less supplemental water due to lower temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and sometimes even water from the sky. There are also fewer pest problems in the winter. The soil should still be warm enough for seeds to germinate, even after the air has cooled off a bit. If starting from seed, follow package instructions or plant them about two times as deep as the seed is wide. Leave space between seeds to account for the eventual size of the plant. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate, then gradually reduce the watering frequency as they grow. Root vegetables and leafy greens are popular cool-season vegetables.

Photo: Kohlrabi, by Jack Kelly Clark, UC
Spring Bulbs in Fall

Bulbs that bloom in the spring go into the ground in the fall. These include those that are technically corms, rhizomes, tubers, or tuberous roots in addition to true bulbs. Examples are daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, tulips, freesias, and iris. They can go into the ground in groups, into pots, or be tucked in amongst other plants. They just need to be in a place that doesn’t stay wet because they will rot with too much water. It is important that the soil has good drainage. Most flower best in full sun or filtered shade. Be sure to plant them with the pointy side up because new growth will come from that point. A rule of thumb is to plant them twice as deep as the diameter of the bulb, but follow instructions for the specific flowers. Water them in at planting time.
Freesia
Photo: Freesia flowers
Upcoming Events
Our monthly Plant Clinic Online is an opportunity to chat with a Master Gardener via Zoom to diagnose a plant problem. You can also listen and learn while other people ask questions. It takes place on the second Saturday of the month (October 9), from 10–noon. Priority will be given to questions that are emailed in advance; instructions are in the Zoom registration confirmation. Registration required

Explore Martial Cottle Park, Saturday, October 2, 10 am–3 pm, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Starting Fall Vegetables from Seed, Saturday, October 2, 10–10:45 am, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Everything You Want to Know About Composting, Saturday, October 2, 10 am–noon, Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, 151Center Dr, Palo Alto

Creating a Succulent Wreath for Fall Decoration, Saturday, October 2, 11–11:45 am, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Container Gardening, Tuesday, October 5, 6:30–8:30 pm, Fremont Union High School District Adult Education, 10123 N Wolfe Rd, Suite 2085 (Vallco Shopping Mall), Cupertino

Martial Cottle Park Open Garden, Saturday, October 9, 9 am–noon, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Plant Clinic, Saturday, October 9, 10 am–noon, Online

Martial Cottle Park Open Garden, Saturday, October 16, 9 am–noon, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Succulent Open House & Sale, Saturday, October 16, 9 am–noon, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Controlling Ants Around the Home, Thursday, October 21, noon–1 pm, Online

Martial Cottle Park Open Garden, Saturday, October 23, 9 am–noon, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Martial Cottle Park Open Garden, Saturday, October 30, 9 am–noon, Martial Cottle Park, 5283 Snell Avenue, San Jose

Understanding Pesticides for Pest Management, Thursday, November 18, noon–1 pm, Online
Check our calendar for the latest schedule of events. Videos of many past presentations are also available.
About Us
University of California Master Gardener volunteers promote sustainable gardening practices and provide research-based horticultural information to home gardeners. Visit our website for more information including:

Have a gardening question? Contact our Help Desk (for Santa Clara County residents). Start by reviewing our plant problem diagnosis tips and then:
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