Fall into September in Southern California Gardens
The dog days of summer have passed and fall is upon us. In SoCal, we’re lucky enough to have another planting season to look forward to instead of preparing for snow. What exactly happens during the fall planting season? We’ve prepared this tip sheet for you!
Yes, it’s time for even more planting! Fall is the perfect time to start seed for cooler season veggies like peas, beans, kale, chard, broccoli, carrots, lettuces and greens, radishes, potatoes and cauliflower.
It’s also the time to put in your cool-season flower beds. Fill them with pansies, candytuft, calendula, foxgloves, stock, snapdragons and sweet alyssum.
September is the season to plant low water flowering bulbs like Tritonia, Babiana, Watsonia, Sparaxis and hyacinth. There are some tricks to planting bulbs:
- Buy them as soon as they become available at your local garden center. This ensures you’ll get a better selection.
- Spring-blooming bulbs like hyacinths, tulips and crocuses need “fake” winter: pre-chill them in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks before planting.
Tending our gardens and beds is a never-ending task. Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean your work is over. Here, then, is a list of things to focus on in September:
- Annual veggies are coming to the end of their time. As they die, remove them and add them to your compost heap. Diseased plants should be put in your green waste and tightly sealed.
- Even though it’s fall, it’s still quite warm. Plants in the ground need deep but infrequent watering. Native plants likely need water only once a month.
- If the Santa Ana winds are on the way, water thoroughly before they hit.
- Potted plants need extra attention. It’s still pretty hot and they’re much more vulnerable to water stress than their “in-ground” cousins. Deep water potted plants for maximum success. If they’re still wilting, move them to a shadier location.
- Speaking of watering, inspect your irrigation system for uncapped lines and leaks. Check your overhead sprayers to make sure the heads are properly aimed.
- Water really early in the morning if you’re using overheads. This gives leaves a chance to dry out during the day. If you water at night, wet leaves are vulnerable to fungi and diseases.
- Early watering also eases the stress on your municipal water supply. There’s a huge demand from 6 am to 9 am for morning showers and meal prep.
- In addition to watering, plants also need to be hosed off now and then to get rid of dirt and dust. Dusty foliage creates the perfect environment for mites and other sucking insects. A sharp blast of water in the early morning does the job perfectly.
- Hose down your compost heap to promote decomposition and give it some shade, too, to help hold in the moisture.
- Fig trees need to be pruned right after you harvest all the fruit. Since new figs develop at branch tips, pruning later might mean you’re cutting off next year’s harvest.
Food, Food & More Food
Fertilizing is an ongoing task this month. Continue to follow your fertilizer schedules. Warm-season lawns, like Bermuda grass, still need fertilizing.
If you have roses, keep fertilizing them for fall bloom. Container plants, both annuals and perennials, need the extra food. Acid-loving plants also need fertilizing, especially if they’re showing an iron deficiency. If the young leaves look yellow-green with dark green veins, it’s a sign of iron deficiency. Examples of acid-loving plants are gardenias, azaleas, camellias and blueberries.
Last, put out some shallow dishes of water for birds, butterflies and lizards. They’ll appreciate the hydration and they’re fun to watch. Place them in areas away from dogs and cats, though.
Continue to enjoy the fruits (and veggies!) of your labors. You’ve fed all your plants, now let them feed you. If you have pineapple guavas, wait until they fall, that’s when they’re ripe. Pick them up, rinse them off, slice them open and scoop out the delicious white, fleshy fruit.
You’ll see large metallic blue-green beetles this time of year, too. They don’t cause a lot of damage, no matter how large and scary they look. Don’t grab insecticide; just wait for their lifecycle to end.