It is time for fall plantings of all kinds of vegetables. In August, I started lettuce, fennel and onion seeds in flats and I also direct seeded beets, collard greens, lettuce, fennel, turnips, kale, carrots and Kohlrabi. Bok choy and Chinese cabbage are other good fall vegetables. The broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages I had planted in flats in early July had more failures than successes, so I replanted them and recently transplanted them to the garden. I hope they can make a crop because timing is important. Get them started too late and they don’t always grow sufficiently before cold weather to produce a crop. Last year the plants I bought at the nursery did not do well because they apparently were started from seed too late. However, it is worth the gamble to grow a winter garden. Garlic and peas should be planted in early October and onion sets around November 1 or earlier if available. California is a paradise for gardeners because vegetables can be grown year around.
Fall is always the best time to plant shrubs and landscape trees. The cool winter temperatures and rains will give plants time to grow roots and become established, before the challenging heat of next summer. If you love fall colors of red or gold on your trees then some good ones to plant are: Chinese pistache, Gingko, Tupelo, scarlet oak, red oak, Japanese maple, red maple, crepe myrtle or redbud. It is a good idea to make sure that any mature trees will fit into your landscape space and not be a problem for service lines. PG&E has a good tree guide book for the right tree in the right place that you can order free from PG&E: RightTreeRightPlace@pge.com.
It is also time to plant bulbs, perennials, annuals for winter/spring blooms. With cooler weather, you can plant perennials such as: foxglove, Geum, Penstemon, Salvia, yarrow, Delphinium, Coreopsis Gaillardia, and Campanula and annuals such as: snapdragons, larkspur, ornamental cabbage and kale, Iceland poppies, primrose and stock. Keep soil moist before the rains start for success and optimal growth. Order your spring blooming bulbs early for best selection and to get them in time for October planting. There are early, mid-season and late-season choices in most bulbs so you can extend bloom enjoyment by careful selection. Narcissus come in a wide variety of shapes and colors and is my favorite because, once established, they come back abundantly every spring; unlike tulips which are generally planted as an annual. Some other choices are: anemone, calla, freesia, Hyacinth, Muscari, and Dutch iris
Prune any low branches from your citrus to discourage fungus infection on the fruit. Cut off branches lower than 18-24 inches above the soil and clean up fallen leaves, old fruit or other organic matter and then mulch with wood chips or bark to keep fungus spores from infecting low hanging fruit when it rains.
Fall is a good time to divide perennials if they are overcrowded. They will grow and bloom better when not crowded. Ornamental grasses Iris, Shasta daisies, Solomon’s seal, yarrow, daylilies; Agapanthus and cannas are just a few which need periodic division. They can be dug up with a spading fork or shovel and then divided with a sharp knife, saw or spade. Replant ASAP or give some extras to friends or neighbors. Add compost to make up for any lost soil volume and discard any unhealthy plants. For more tips on division of plants see: http://www.finegardening.com/10-tips-dividing-perennial-plants.
Roses will be coming into the fall bloom period although if you dead-headed them frequently you likely enjoyed some roses all through the summer. Final feeding for roses should be in October and it is best to give it either compost or 0-10-10 fertilizer as nitrogen will encourage tender, frost damage-prone shoots. Renew the mulch for winter and avoid fertilizing again until spring.
One of my garden rules is to ‘pay attention’. When you don’t ‘pay attention’ plants can die for lack of water, weeds can take over; lots of things can go wrong. One recent Sunday morning I decided I needed to trim back a Camelia from the doorway to my wine cellar, because I would soon be opening it to bottle wine. As I started trimming, I noticed that there were many seedling trees growing under the Camellias. I spent two hours digging out walnut, pecan, privot, bay, Virginia creeper, and Algerian ivy seedlings from under the Camellias. Some had obviously been there for a long time, but I hadn’t payed attention. Some chores can come your way when you are not even looking for them. I went on to prune dead wood and stray branches from the Camellias and ended up with a wheel barrel of clean up stuff for my unscheduled morning’s work. Gardening often can surprise like this, it seems. Happy autumn gardening!
If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website: http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/