Fall is no time for gardeners to lie down

cambriagardener@charter .netOctober 13, 2012 

I was bent over pulling up Shasta daisies in front of our house when a neighbor walking by remarked, “I see you’re doing what you said you would do.” I had to think a minute. In my last column I’d written that I’d neglected my garden while our sunroom was being built. I was going to “put on my garden gloves and get to work.” I was pleased that she’d read my article and acknowledged my efforts.

Staying on top of garden maintenance takes diligence and hours in hand watering, deadheading, raking, pruning, sweeping, cutting back, gopher control, and, well — you know. When I get behind, we call a landscaper with a couple of guys. They can do in three hours what it takes me two weeks to accomplish.

Having good labor a few times a year works better for us than bi-monthly maintenance because regular maintenance often involves raking, and blowing the driveway and paths, which I can do. I need help with digging holes, and dividing clumping perennials that have become crowded. Daylilies, agapanthus, alstroemeria, lamb’s ears, Shasta daisies, yarrow and iris benefit from dividing about every three years.

I’m going to get started on planting replacement plants around the new sunroom we built this summer. Prostrate rosemary is a practical choice for the area. It grows well here, takes little water, and — it’s GREEN! I’ll leave a small area of “just plain dirt” for our Australian labradoodle puppies that are due to be born this month. They’ll need a space to romp until they are ready to leave their mum.

It’s time to plant sets of cool-season annuals such as calendulas, dianthus, Iceland poppies, pansies, lobelia, snapdragons, stock, primroses and violas.  Sow seeds of baby blue eyes, forget-me-nots, sweet alyssum, sweet peas and spring wildflowers.

Keep your vegetable garden going in the winter. Plant garlic, onion sets, potatoes and seeds of beets, carrots, chard, lettuce, radishes, snow peas and spinach. Buy and plant broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, chives, lettuce and parsley. All of the above do well in our temperate climate.

Tired of gardening? Check out the website for the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden at slobg.org for upcoming events. On Oct. 20, take their pine needle basket weaving class. I’ve seen these small baskets on the Kashia Rancheria in Sonoma County where basket weaving has become a “lost art.” Artist Elizabeth Bear will guide attendees through the process of making fragrant pieces of ancient artwork. To register, call 541-1400, ext. 304. We may not have water, but we have pine needles!

Tip of the Month

Annual flowers can be planted in the late winter or spring and you’ll be rewarded with blooms in the spring, summer, and fall. Biennial plants, like hollyhocks and foxglove, need a second year to flower and “do their thing.” I love these stately cottage garden flowers. Plant the seeds in outdoor pots or in your “resting” vegetable beds and keep moist over the winter. They’ll be ready to set out (transplant) to beds.

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@charter.net; read her blog at centralcoastgardening.com.

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