Q: What should I be doing in my garden to get ready for fall? — Lauren Frias, Nipomo
A: It seems a bit odd to think about beets and broccoli while it’s still August and you are picking tomatoes, but that’s how it works here on the Central Coast. There are a few things we need to do to have a good crop of cool season vegetables and to make sure we have a good harvest of fruit next year.
The days have been growing shorter since the end of June, and it is important to plant your cool season crops while the sun is still strong enough for the seedlings to get well established.
On the Central Coast we have a wide range of choices: brassicas, which include broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, to name a few, along with many varieties of lettuce, and all colors of Swiss chard and beets. Start these from seed immediately outside in full sun in a protected place, or begin checking local nurseries for transplants.
Remember, when buying transplants, a young plant will usually thrive better than a rootbound one. For definitive information on what to plant when, how deep and how far apart, do an Internet search for “California Master Gardener Handbook Table 14.”
For your fruit trees, reduce the chances of future disease or pest infestation by cleaning up fallen fruit and raking up fallen leaves to eliminate habitat for overwintering pests and diseases like apple scab. Remove the suckers from the base of the tree and “watersprouts,” which are branches that rapidly grow straight up toward the sky.
After all the fruit is picked, prune back unwanted growth so you can reach next year’s crop, and remove any crossing branches. Continue to irrigate your fruit trees. Although they may no longer have fruit, they still require irrigation until the winter rains arrive. For a full calendar of activities for pomes, see UC ANR pub. 7258, “Apples and Pears: Calendar of Operations for Home Gardeners.”
Enjoy the rest of your garden’s summer bounty, and get ready for the next season’s harvest.