Warm days and chilly nights signal the onset of fall. Preparing your garden for winter may be on your mind but, with mild California weather, now is an excellent time to use this “third season” to enjoy the moody freshness of fall in the garden.
Interested in planting? Fall-blooming perennials such as asters, chrysanthemums, daylilies, plumbago, and salvia provide a welcome surprise year after year. Sweet peas, which need warm weather to germinate, but cool weather to bloom, will bring life to your garden.
Bulbs to plant include mariposa lily, wild hyacinth, South African crocosmia, nerine, sparaxis, freesia, watsonia, and daffodil. Purchase ranunculus, but wait until October when the soil is cool enough to plant. Tulips, crocus, and hyacinth can be purchased and refrigerated for six to eight weeks in a paper bag. But don’t store with ethylene-producing fruits such as apples. Plants such as forget-me-nots and sweet alyssum are great choices for fall planting.
Soups and stews and hot savory meals, oh my! Culinary herbs are a wonderful addition to your garden. Parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, lovage, and winter savory are herbs to plant now.
Autumn is the best planting time for trees and shrubs. When selecting a tree, take a look at its general health. Check the roots, foliage, and branches for injury and pests. When planting, select a site area with suitable soil conditions. Great fall choices for trees and shrubs include heavenly bamboo, Japanese barberry, pistache, California wild grape, and smoke tree. Consider a California native for easy care. Be sure to provide enough water until the rainy season begins.
Keep your lawn under control by applying pre-emergent herbicides to prevent weeds from sprouting. Now is the time to aerate the lawn to allow soil to take in oxygen, water and nutrients.
While you’re out there, do a little tidying. Pinch back begonias, impatiens, and geraniums and dispose of fallen fruit to control brown rot. Replenish mulch around trees, shrubs, and flower beds. Switch fertilizer for your cymbidium orchids from high nitrogen to one with low nitrogen and high phosphorus. Prepare succulents for winter dormancy by reducing water. Divide spring-blooming perennials that produced few flowers or were smaller than usual. Finally, clean any stakes, supports, cages or trellises that supported diseased plants with a 10 percent solution of bleach before storing them away for next year. Then, enjoy the last month where the days are long.