Q. I’m cleaning up my garden and pulling out summer tomatoes and squash. Can I plant in November for a harvest of winter vegetables? — Dan P. Arroyo Grande
A. In winter, a sunny plot can grow beets, carrots, onions, peas, chard, radishes and turnips from seed. Seedling plants would be a better choice for slower developing broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. In mild coastal areas, you could grow various salad greens, though it’s probably too cold in North County for tender lettuce to survive.
In planning your garden, remember you can discourage soil borne pests by not planting crops from the same family in the same spot for two years running. If your problem with root disease is serious, you might even consider a four-year crop rotation; e.g. corn, tomatoes, squash, beans.
If you should decide against growing winter vegetables this year, you might plant a cover crop of clover, fava beans, rye or vetch to enrich the soil for next season’s veggies.
After you’ve cleaned up the vegetable garden, give the rest of your garden a clean-up. Rake up leaves, cut back grasses and perennials. You can still divide perennials such as iris and daylilies before frosts. Cut back berry canes to the ground, leaving new young canes to bear next year’s fruit. Late fall is a good time to plant biennial flowers such as hollyhocks, Canterbury Bells and foxglove – they need cold weather to produce a good show next spring.
You can also add some flowers to your winter garden. Narcisscus of all kinds can be planted until late fall (until Christmas along the coast). They will naturalize in spots where they are happy – give them well drained soil and avoid regular summer water. If you want to plant tulips and hyacinths for spring bloom, bulbs should be purchased now and chilled in the refrigerator for six weeks before planting out.
Finish up fall garden chores by mulching every thing. A good layer of mulch will keep down weeds and make them easy to pull when they do appear. It will retain moisture if this is a dry winter and prevent erosion if big storms arrive.