Why are we startled? Really!? Fall comes every year at the same time, yet we always seem to be caught off guard when those first cool mornings hit. For most it means the end of the growing season and a welcome respite from our garden chores. But not so fast buckaroo! There’s still the Fall Cleanup to do.
There are actually two sets of chores in the garden now. One is cleaning up your garden, which we will look at today. The other is tool cleanup and storage which will be our post next week.
#1 Take stock.
Go out into your garden with your garden journal (You are keeping one, right?) making note of what worked and what didn’t. If a plant didn’t thrive, was bug infested, or disease ridden, it just might be time to “shovel prune” the thing to make a space for something that’s more suited to your climate/micro climate. You’ll have all winter to ask around and see what worked for your neighbors, or to talk to the folks at your local nursery about more suitable plants.
Bring your camera along and take a few photos to have when you’re looking at garden catalogues in the dead of winter. Not only will it cheer you up, but you’ll have a better idea of what new plants to order and where they should go.
#2 Final harvests.
Keep an eye on the weather reports. Harvest the last of your veggies just before that first frost hits. Or, put up some hoops and floating row covers to protect your crops for the early light frosts extending your growing season by a few weeks. Mary Beth did this in June, but you can still install them as a weekend project if you hurry.
#3 Clean, clean, clean.
Remove dead and dying plant material from your garden beds to prevent diseases from overwintering. Be especially vigilant in your rose beds — leave not even one fungus-infected leaf behind! Here’s a link to a great video on the Annie’s Annuals (amazingly great source for plants) website that shows how Annie “tears up” the garden in November to get it ready for spring. (Thanks for Dirt Du Jour for posting this.)
#4 Dig up dahlia tubers.
Yes, we know you hate this chore, but do it! You’ll be patting yourself on the back when these beauties are in full bloom next year. Click here for MB’s great “how to.” In coastal California you don’t have to dig up dahlias. You can just cut them back to the ground in November.
#5 Plant spring-flowering bulbs and wildflower seeds.
In Southern California this is the perfect time for putting in some spring-flowering bulbs. Click here for a list of bulbs that will do well in our warmer temps and for some good sources. You might want to consider filling in some early spring blank spots with native wildflowers. Planting time for wildflower seeds is mid-November through mid-March, but get your seeds now. Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano has nine mixes formulated specifically for California gardens using only native plant seeds.
#6 Cool Season Crops for Southern California.
Here in So Cal we really don’t get much of a break from gardening, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your energy level any given day. Regardless, fresh, homegrown veggies on your dinner table make it all worthwhile. You can grow arugula, beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, mache, escarole, favas, green onion, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mesclun, mustard, parsnips, radicchio, radish, snap peas, spinach and turnips.
Seeds should have gone in mid-September and you can probably get away with planting most of them if you do it right away, otherwise buy some starts and you’ll be right on schedule.
Ok. That’s enough for now. Next week we’ll talk tools.