Falling for the Garden

If you’re like me, you don’t just garden in the pretty months. I enjoy a continuous relationship with my plants and like to work in the garden all year long. And now, with fall approaching, it’s easy to become obsessed with chores like incessant leaf raking. But in Marin, we get a second spring, and there is much to do to keep your garden love affair growing strong.

TIPS FROM THE EXPERT: “Anyone trying to achieve a drought-tolerant garden must plan,” says Dan Dufficy, owner and founder of CNL Native Plant Nursery in Tam Junction, who highly recommends planting California natives in the fall. “As the rain sets in, roots push and acclimate to hard, unforgiving local clay soil.” He also suggests, “Native seeds, however, should not be scattered in the fall. Instead, wait until the warmth of early spring for better success.”

One reason to stay active in the garden is that the soil is still warm, and seed germination happens best in warm temperatures. Plants get the luxury of growing slow and healthy, getting to establish their roots through winter.

Savvy Soil
Good draining soil is critical once the rain starts, so amend all new planting beds with generous amounts of rich compost.

Be Cool
Cool-season veggies take up less space than massive pumpkins and squash. Easy to grow from seeds sown directly in the ground are chard, carrots, and radishes. Easy to start from nursery seedlings are broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Watch for destructive snails and slugs as the weather dampens. Apply natural bait products like Sluggo.

Flower Power
It’s best to plant flowers now before the weather turns cold, but be sure to protect pretty petals from late hot spells. The most reliable flowers are calendulas, Iceland poppies, and violas.

Much More
Lawns (sod or seeds), perennials for spring blooms, and most hardy shrubs and fruit trees can be planted now. Resist the urge to plant frost-tender tropicals.

Boost Roses
You may be able to squeeze out one more bloom from roses during this time. Cut off faded flowers, fertilize the soil with rose food and water deeply. Wait until after New Year’s for the hard-core pruning.

Water Wisdom
Unless early rains surprise us, just about everything will still need irrigation. Check for moisture to make sure. Use a spade or shovel to see what the top 2 or 3 inches of soil are like. Don’t forget plants and pots under eaves that don’t get the benefit of rain.

Feed Me
Give lawns a fall feeding, if you haven’t already. Also, look for signs of iron deficiency on citrus leaves; supply a dose of citrus food containing iron if you notice yellowing leaves.

Divide and Conquer
When individual plants stop blooming, it could mean they need to be divided; examples are daisies, agapanthus, and yarrow. Now is the perfect time to do this.