Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2007
Regional Report

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We're fortunate to be able to grow beets year-round!

Suddenly, It's Fall!

The amazingly sudden shift from summer to fall, with that tremendous downpour and chilly weather, certainly cued us to shift our gardening activities. Even my last tomatoes gave up the ghost. I had scheduled delivery and incorporation of a huge amount of compost in anticipation of transplanting my first broccoli and cauliflower, thinking at the time that it would be too hot. Now, in addition to pleasant working weather, layering the compost as mulch on all the garden soil will seal in that welcome rain!

Veggie Planting Time
With all that richness added to offset the nutrients removed from the soil by previous crops, it's time to get all the garden sown and transplanted again. Here are some possibilities: beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, chives, fava beans, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (especially romaine types and small-heading bibb and buttercrunch types, which overwinter well with minimal damage from light frosts), 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.

Besides (or instead of) seeding, use transplants of artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, established herbs (especially comfrey, sage, and 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' or 'Brocciflower', which are crosses between broccoli and cauliflower.

Garlic planted now will develop a strong root system over the winter, and leaf production can begin early in the spring, resulting in a large head next summer. So the sooner you plant them now in rich, well-drained soil, the larger they'll be at harvest. Planting in the spring, even with rich soil, will produce only medium- or small-sized cloves, or a single bulb without cloves. (These small bulbs can be used in place of a single large clove in recipes. They can also be left in the soil or stored and replanted the following fall, when they'll develop further and then mature into separate cloves.) For the largest-sized garlic, plant cloves 4 to 6 inches apart in a raised planting bed that's well-drained and compost-enriched, and keep the soil moist through next June.

Flowers to Start Now
Flowers, too, will develop stronger plants and bloom earlier and more profusely next spring if you sow them now, since they'll grow extensive root systems over the winter. Sow or transplant ageratum, alyssum, bachelor's buttons, calendulas, campanulas, candytufts (Iberis), chrysanthemums, clarkias, columbines, coralbells (Heuchera), coreopsis, African daisies (Arctotis, Gazania), delphiniums, dianthus, forget-me-nots (Myosotis), four-o'clocks, foxgloves, gaillardias, hollyhocks, larkspur, linaria, love-in-a-mist (Nigella), lunaria, blue marguerites (Felicia), nierembergias, ornamental cabbage and kale, phlox, California and Iceland and Oriental and Shirley poppies, primroses, rudbeckias, snapdragons, stocks, stokesia, sweet peas, verbenas, violas, and wildflowers.

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