» Archive for September, 2016

Fresh Vegetables from the Fall Garden

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Chrysanthemums come in bright fall colors to give you instant color in flower beds and containers.
    • Divide Astilbe and Oriental poppies now. Replant healthy roots and add some bonemeal in the bottom of the hole when you replant.
    • Pansies and snapdragons can be planted now to replace summer annuals. They will give you color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • If your bearded iris blooms were sparse this year or the plants are more than four years old, now is the time to divide and replant them. Mix some bone meal into the soil, and plant the rhizomes just beneath the soil surface.

Fresh Vegetables from the Fall Garden

September is a great month to spend some time in the garden. Mornings and evenings are cooler and a delightful time to harvest the summer crops and set out some new plants for fall vegetables.

Broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, kales and collards can be planted now. And so can spinach, Swiss chard and Asian greens.

Try growing some Chinese cabbages now. Although related to cabbage, they don’t taste much like cabbage. They are more sweetly flavored, with large, crisp, lettuce-like leaves. They are used in salads, sautéed, or pickled in Kimchi.

Pak choy is a popular Asian vegetable which belongs to the loose-leaf cabbage family and resembles Swiss chard. It develops large, glossy dark green leaves with wide white celery-like midribs. It is tender and delicious either cooked or quick fried in oil. It is used extensively in Chinese restaurants in Chow Mein, Chop Suey and soups.

Baby Bok Choy has become the most used vegetables in various Asian dishes due to its excellent flavor, texture and size. This fast-growing vegetable can be ready for harvest in 3-4 weeks. Young leaves and petioles are very tender and crisp, and they are good for stir-fry cooking.

There are many other interesting Asian greens. Nappa cabbage, or Wong Bok, makes large, cylindrical tight heads with broad round smooth leaves. It is very tender with a mild flavor. Tatsoi is a loose-headed variety similar to Pak choy with a large, bulbous celery-like base. It produces well into winter. Mizuna is a Japanese non-heading leaf type with narrow, dark-green, feathery leaves. It is very decorative in salads and popular in stir-fry.

You can also plant turnips now. Plant seeds up to 50 days before your first fall frost. Purple Top White Globe is an old-fashioned variety that will also give you tasty greens through the winter months.

Many types of lettuce will grow well now. They prefer the cooler weather of fall to the heat of summer, so they will make nice heads for you in the weeks to come.

Leave room for garlic! Sets will be available later in September. By planting them in the fall, you will be harvesting fresh garlic next June.

Onions can also be planted now. Green onions can be harvested in 3-4 weeks by pulling up the entire plant or just by cutting the green leaves off with a pair of scissors, leaving an inch or two of growth so the onion can continue growing. Larger varieties will grow through the winter and produce big bulbs next spring.

This is also a good time to set out artichoke and rhubarb plants. They will grow vigorously in the cooler weather and be ready to produce next spring.

Make the most of cooler days in your garden. By setting out new plants now, you will extend your harvest season into November.

Color for Cooler Days

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Lettuce can be planted from starts for a quick fall crop.
    • Tree collards are delicious winter vegetables. Set out plants now.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Cover crops should be planted in the garden as soon as you pull out summer crops. They will feed the soil and prevent erosion over the winter.

Color for Cooler Days

As the petunias and marigolds wind down, and chilly nights come on, it’s time to clean up the flower beds and plant some new flowers for the cooler months. Snapdragons, calendulas, stock, pansies, violas, primroses and chrysanthemums are the best choices to keep your garden and containers colorful.

Snapdragons come in a variety of sizes and colors. They range from 8-inch tall “Floral Carpets” to 36-inch tall “Rockets.” The color range spans all the pinks, reds and lavenders as well as yellow and white. Although they are sold as annuals, in our climate they will winter over and rebloom profusely in early spring.

For mass plantings, plant medium and dwarf varieties 6 to 8 inches apart and tall types a foot apart. Give them a sunny location with good garden soil that is well-drained. Snaps look very nice when interplanted with delphiniums, irises and daylilies.

Calendulas are very easy to grow. They are sometimes called winter marigold, though they are not marigolds at all. They grow in the sun and come in all shades of yellow, gold and orange. They like cool weather and will provide lots of color between now and next summer.

Stock is well-known for its wonderful fragrance. Flowers come in lovely rich colors of pink, purple, rose and white. Most flowers are double, and set against their gray-green foliage, they are beautiful. They make wonderful cut flowers, mixing nicely with snaps to have a riot of color as well as fragrance.

Pansies and violas are low-growing flowers that are nice for borders and look very pretty in containers of all kinds. Their heart-shaped, shiny green leaves cover the ground and the flowers rise above them on six-inch stems. Pansy flowers can be up to three inches across and come in a wide variety of colors; some have “faces” and others are solid colors. Both pansies and violas have many new varieties with two or three colors in each flower making a very colorful statement.

English primroses are the best bedding plants for shady areas in the winter. Their flowers sit in a cluster directly in the center of the plant, some on central flower stalks and some with lower flowers on individual stems. The color range is incredible, covering red, blue, yellow and all shades in between.

If primroses are started early enough they will bloom in the fall. All plants will bloom from February through April, putting on a terrific show of color. If planted in a spot that receives shade in the summer, they will become well-established and be bigger and more beautiful next winter.

Chrysanthemums make some of the best cut flowers around. They last up to two weeks in the vase, and give fresh color to the garden when nearly all other perennials have finished their show for the year. In your garden, they will grow 2 to 4 feet tall, and have long stems for cutting.

Fall-blooming mums come in a dazzling array of colors. The “fall colors” of yellow, gold, rust and magenta are very appealing. But they also come in pink, white, purple and lavender. Choose colors that will compliment your indoor decor or the color of your house.

Perk up your garden with cheerful fall bloomers.

Plant a Little Privacy

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs! It’s time to plant tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus and many other flower bulbs for beautiful blooms next spring.
    • Plant snapdragons, pansies and violas for color this fall, winter and next spring.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Fall is for planting! Make the most of the nice fall weather and plant trees, shrubs, ground covers and bulbs now during the fall planting season.

Plant a Little Privacy

Whether we live in the city or the country, we all need a certain amount of privacy, and sometimes plants can create a living fence or screen to serve that purpose.  

There are many reasons for screens. Maybe you want to put a screen between you and the neighbors, or to give you privacy from the road.
A tall hedge can be used to keep down unwanted noise, hide undesirable views, keep out dust and other pollutants, and provide wind protection. It can also be used to frame desirable views and provide the feeling of enclosure. Screens can be used within the landscape to create outdoor “rooms” and separate utility areas from pleasure areas.

Evergreen shrubs and trees that have foliage from the ground up are the most desirable, and so are “fast-growing” plants. When you decide where you want a screen, determine the height and width needed, as well as the amount of sun or shade the planting will receive. Then choose plants which will meet the exposure requirements without excessive pruning.

For a 6 to 8 foot hedge some good shrubs include Oregon grape, Texas privet and heavenly bamboo. They are upright-growing and make tall, narrow screens with a little pruning.

For an 8 to 12 foot tall screen Photinia, with its bright red new growth, and Cotoneaster, with its red berries, are good choices. They make large, wide bushes but can be kept narrower and denser with pruning. 

If you have a fence there already, you can use Photinia trees. These are the same plant as bush Photinia, but they are already 8 feet tall with a 5-foot trunk, so they will give you privacy above the fence right away. If it is a wire fence, consider ivy which will make a dense, evergreen covering in a few years.

Pyracantha is a bit unruly, but can also be shaped with pruning. The white flowers and red berries are attractive and it is very fast-growing. Grecian laurel, English laurel and oleander make attractive natural hedges, screens or background plantings.

Even taller screens can be achieved with evergreen trees and conifers. Italian buckthorn and redwood trees have been used along the freeways in Sonoma County to provide both visual and sound screening.  

Leyland cypress is one of the fastest-growing evergreens. It is widely used as a quick-growing and effective hedge or screen. It will reach 15-20 feet in 5 years and makes a dense hedge when planted 8 feet apart.

Emerald Green arborvitae is a bright green columnar tree that makes a thick, permanent hedge when planted 4-5 feet apart. Its thick foliage quickly fills in to create a solid living wall with a beautiful green color.

Our native incense cedar and bay trees can also be used for large screens, where you have plenty of room for them to spread.

Whether you want a living fence or a tall screen, fall is an excellent time to plant evergreen shrubs for privacy and beauty.