Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2003
Regional Report

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Kale "trees" can be harvested year-round.

Summer Fades Into Fall

We begin to notice that the garden is growing slower this month. After hot and frantic summer harvests and preserving, we, too, can be calmer in our garden activities. We concentrate on keeping summer stragglers producing through cold weather and perhaps frost, starting plants from seed, nurturing seedlings just transplanted, and beginning to harvest cool-season crops. Clean up includes adding plant debris to the compost pile and storing pots and lumber and other leftovers away from the garden. The pleasantly cool weather is refreshing to work in after summer's heat.

Plant Veggies
Sow fava beans, celery, chard, chives, collards, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (especially romaine types and small-heading bibb and buttercrunch types, which overwinter well with minimal damage from light frosts). Also sow green and long-day bulb onions (which will mature during the lengthening days of next spring and early summer), parsley, peas, radishes, spinach (especially savoy types for more frost resistance), and shallots.

Sowing bulb onion seed now will result in larger bulbs that will bolt less in early spring than store-bought sets, which are often stored improperly (mostly too warm for too long) while on display. Also transplant artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, established herbs (especially comfrey, sage, thyme), and rhubarb. All these will mature before the first hard frost and can be overwintered with only minor damage to varieties with more delicate foliage.

Just about any broccoli variety will do well in our area. Try sprouting kinds for lots of small heads. For brilliant chartreuse, pointed heads that taste milder than regular broccoli, try Romanesco, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Plant all cole crops up to the first set of leaves to prevent their developing into weak, leggy plants.

Plant asparagus crowns at least 6 inches deep, and mulch them heavily with manure; winter rains will slowly wash the nutrients down to the root zone.

Start Flowers
Sow or transplant ageratum, hollyhocks (althaea), alyssum, columbines (aquilegia), African daisies (arctotis, gazania), bachelor's buttons or cornflowers (centaurea), calendulas, campanulas, chrysanthemums, coreopsis, delphiniums and larkspur (delphinium), pinks or Sweet William (dianthus), echinacea, blue marguerites (felicia), foxgloves (digitalis)and gaillardias. Also plant godetia (clarkia), coralbells (heuchera), candytuft (iberis), linarias, money plant or silver dollar plant (lunaria), four-o-clocks (mirabilis), forget-me-nots (myosotis), love-in-a-mist (nigella), nierembergias, ornamental cabbage and kale, phlox, California and Iceland and Oriental and Shirley poppies, primroses (primula), coneflowers or gloriosa daisies or black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia), snapdragons, stocks, stokesia, sweet peas, verbenas, Johnny-jump-ups and pansies (violas), and wildflowers.

All these plants will be stronger and bloom earlier and more profusely in the spring if you sow them now. They'll have all winter to grow extensive root systems.

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