Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2004
Regional Report

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The best time to select trees with colorful fall foliage is when they are displaying it.

Tree Time

While trees are displaying their fall foliage, it's a good time to choose new trees to add to your landscape. It's also a good time to prepare established trees for winter.

Preparing Planting Holes
Dig holes for new trees, even if you'll be planting later in the winter. Cover the holes and the backfill soil with tarps to keep them dry and workable when you're ready to plant. Lay boards over the hole, too, to keep people and pets from falling in. Check with neighbors, nurseries and cooperative extension personnel for varieties that grow best in your area and that are resistant to diseases and pests.

Transplant hardy evergreens and water them deeply. Expect some needles on established pines, hemlocks and spruces to dry and fall. Compost pine needles and oak leaves for use as mulch on acid-loving azaleas, camellias, gardenias, rhododendrons and strawberries.

Clear the soil under trees by pulling back the mulch, discarding fruit mummies and moving leaves to the compost pile as soon as they fall. Remove stakes and branch spreaders from trees. Check the bases of fruit tree trunks for rodent damage, and install trunk protectors if necessary.

Feed subtropicals like citrus and avocados with a fertilizer containing high levels of phosphorus and potassium but no nitrogen to help them become cold-hardy. Keep them watered until the rains take over.

Take Your Cues
Plan your dormant fruit tree spraying schedule around cool-weather holidays -- Thanksgiving, New Year's Day and Valentine's Day. Watch for specific cues: the fall of the last leaf (Thanksgiving), and bud swell (Valentine's Day). Spraying at the precise period of bud swell is especially important -- before the buds swell is too early, and after the blossoms open is too late.

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