In many ways, gardening is like shopping for clothes. For instance, do you ever want to buy a new swimsuit in September (when it’s really hot here in Sonoma County) but realize that swimsuits were in the stores beginning way back in the cold of April? By the time you think of getting the suit, if you can find a store that has suits, the choices are dismal. Stores stock most of their clothes for the next season not for the current season. This is why, when you’re cold in February it’s hard to find a turtleneck sweater because the stores are stocking spring dresses!
The same thing can happen with gardening in Sonoma County; when it’s hot in September it’s time to prepare for the cold, winter vegetable garden and replace summer flowering annuals, like cosmos and zinnias, with winter flowering annuals, like pansies and Iceland poppies. The winter annuals can get a good head start on growing their roots while the soil still holds the warmth from summer weather.
Frost hardy trees, shrubs and natives can go in at this time of year too so that the winter rains can help the roots grow in the nice moist soil! All that’s needed is to keep the new plantings watered until the rains arrive in earnest and then, for months, there’s no need to think about watering unless there is a dry spell. By November, it’s time to think about what fruits and roses to buy at the beginning of bareroot season in January before the selection dwindles down to nothing. Unlike the end of season sales at clothing stores, bareroot season is like a ‘reverse sale’ buying bareroot saves money; one would pay several times more later in the season for the same plant that is potted up and sold in a container.
Bulbs are another project that helps if you plan ahead. For the best selection from mail order companies, bulbs that will be planted in fall for blooms in spring can be ordered early in the summer months; most mail order companies will then ship your order at the right time of year for the bulbs to be planted in your area. The same holds true for other bulbs; spring planted, summer blooming bulbs are ordered in fall. When shopping locally start shopping early and often to get the best selection; purchase the bulbs early and keep them dry and cool for planting out when the time is right.
Planning ahead in the garden is key for garden design. As gardeners we always have our minds about six months ahead.
Arranging plants on a nursery cart helps to see how well the plants go together.
Cool-Season Annuals - Continue planting winter annuals during the first two weeks in October. Here in Sonoma County this is the optimal time to plant some winter flowering annuals, such as Pansies, Iceland Poppies, and Calendula. New plantings may need protection during heatwaves. For best bloom, plan ahead so cool-season annuals are planted where they get good winter sun. Other winter bloomers, such as Primroses and Bellis perennis can wait to be planted when the weather cools.
Ground Covers - Rubus rolfei, Veronica umbrosa 'Georgia Blue', Sedum 'Angelina'.
Perennials - Lavender, Aster, Dianthus, Erigeron, Nepeta, Phlomis fruticosa.
Shrubs - Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite', Kerria japonica, Elaeagnus.
Bulbs - Freesia, Anemone, Alliums, Ranunculus, Spraxis.
Wildflower Seeds - Bachelor Buttons, Flander's Poppies, Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes).
Pruning - In the beginning of the month hardy Salvias can be lightly shaped one more time before frost starts at the end of October. Continue to deadhead Salvia 'Indigo spires' and others to encourage one last flush of flowers. Fuchsias too will keep blooming when spent flowers are removed promptly. Citrus-go easy or not at all on pruning citrus now as the leaves protect the plant during winter frosts. Elaeagnus can be shaped or tip pruned. Keep pansies and Iceland Poppies blooming all winter by deadheading often (remove spent flowers and their stems).
Pest Management - Especially at this time of year, Spider mite webbing may be on plants. Spray the webbing off with a strong spray of water from the hose a few times a week (in the morning) to disrupt the infestation. A shrub rake can also be used to gently remove the webbing from foliage. Spider mites like hot, dry, and dusty conditions. So, keeping plants washed off at least once a month in the dry months helps lower the population. Powdery Mildew on Dahlias and other plants can be managed with Neem oil spray. Repeat application 7 to 10 days after first application. Spray under leaves, top of leaves, all stems, and ground under and around the plant.
Fertilizing - Most plants need time to harden new leaves before frost so most fertilizing ended in early in September. Winter bloomers though will need monthly fertilizing with an all purpose fertilizer all winter long (Mary uses Maxsea fertilizers). Watch: Two Quick Methods for Fertilizing.
Mulch - Fall is an excellent time to apply a thick layer of compost as mulch. If using bark as mulch, applying compost around shrubs and perennials will help to feed the soil and make plants happy! Put the layer of bark right on top of the compost to create a cohesive look to the garden. Winter annuals will perform much better if compost is used as mulch in the garden bed instead of bark. Watch The Gardening Tutor's video: Mulch vs. Compost.