Tips for fall gardening from Nevada County Master Gardeners |

Tips for fall gardening from Nevada County Master Gardeners

Symphoricarpos albus or Snowberry.
Submitted photo |

With lovely warm days and cool nights our gardening season is extended with expectations for rain to come.

The fall is an optimum time to plant perennials, wild flower seeds and bulbs. This is a good time to think ahead about spring color, and prepare garden beds for planting.

Native plants are plentiful as was demonstrated at the California Native Plant Society’s fall plant sale where dozens of varieties of native plants were available. Once established, native plants make our gardening jobs easier.

According to the Master Gardener’s Western Nevada County Garden Guide, native plants are adapted to our climate and require less work. Although still susceptible to deer damage, natives may be better suited to handle deer grazing than other non-native ornamentals.

Once well-established, native plants need little water during the dry summer months, but newly planted shrubs must have supplemental water in order to survive. It may take even the most drought tolerant plant many years before it’s able to fend for itself. Some wonderful native perennials include Penstemon, Monkey flower bush (Mimulus bifidus) California lilac (Ceanothus spp.) and Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) with pure white berries in winter.

— Plant cool season vegetables such as spinach, peas, chives and onions. Divide garlic bulbs which are readily available at local nurseries and plant in rich well drained soil.

— Plant cool season annual flowers such as calendula, Iceland poppies (Papaver spp.), pansies (Viola spp.) snapdragons (Antirrhinum spp.) or stock (Matthiola spp.) to create a colorful display during winter months before bulbs emerge.

— Clean up dry annuals and vegetables. Remove old fruit and debris from under trees, and compost pest-free debris from the garden. Chop and layer dry corn stalks in rows for mulch over the winter. Cut old perennials almost to the ground and work compost, fir bark, rice hulls or wood chips into the soil.

— Check to see if growing conditions for your plants have changed — they may now have too much shade, sun or competition from other plants. Divide and replant perennials that are not doing well.

— Plant winter cover crops to add nutrients to the soil; add mulch to beds to help suppress next season’s weeds.

— Bulbs are an excellent choice for spring color around native oaks. Add soft rock phosphate to the bottom of the planting hole. For immediate availability superphosphate may be added to the soil surface. Water until rains begin.

— Attend the final Master Gardener workshop of 2015, Oct. 31 — “It’s OK, Prune Away” which will offer techniques for pruning the backyard orchard including many types of fruit trees, except olives. The workshop is free of charge and will be held at the Grass Valley Elks lodge, lower level at 109 S. School St. from 10 a.m. to noon.

After the class, participants are invited to drive to the Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden at the NID complex (1036 W. Main St.) to view various pruning techniques used in the orchard. For more information, see the Master Gardener website at

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