Ann Wright: Fall into the garden |

Ann Wright: Fall into the garden

Ann Wright

The autumnal equinox is around the corner. Signaling the beginning of fall, the equinox occurs on Sept. 23 in the northern hemisphere, where the hours of daylight are roughly equal to night time hours. The recent surprise rain and change in temperatures offers renewed energy for gardeners — fall is definitely in the air, and it’s a great time to be outside. Now is the ideal time to plant natives, other ornamental perennials and cool season vegetables. Fall days are generally cooler, shorter and kinder to natives and other perennials. Plants put into the landscape in the fall lose less moisture through the leaves than in summer, and some of the heat of summer is retained in the soil which gives plant roots a chance to become established as the rains of winter set in. Once winter rains begin, roots established in the fall continue to grow a more extensive root system and support future leaf growth. This establishes a stronger plant, better able to tolerate the next year’s hot summer months. Further top growth will then continue next spring before the plant will seek summer dormancy.

The Nevada County Master Gardener’s fall plant sale is today from 9 a.m. to noon at the demonstration garden on the NID grounds at 1036 W. Main St. in Grass Valley. A variety of cool-season vegetables, perennials, native plants and grasses will be available for sale. Cool season vegetables include a couple of varieties of lettuces — “tennis ball” and “little gem” as well as other romaine. Intermix lettuce with spinach or other greens also available at the sale. Kale? Why -yes! Red Ursa kale, an heirloom, will be for sale — as well as other frost hearty varieties. Greens. arugula, chard and spinach will also be for sale. Native plants on the bench include varieties of milkweed, California fuchsia (Epilobium canum), and mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii), a native shrub which blooms in early spring with delicate, fragrant white flowers. Ornamentals such as hydrangea, forsythia and coral bells will also be for sale. Come early for the best selection — cash and checks only, please.

Other than planning and planting fall gardens, other garden tips for September include:

When planning native plant beds, choose plants that have similar soil water and light requirements. “The right plant in the right place” is one of the mottos of Master Gardeners.

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Winter annuals planted now bloom better next spring. At the end of the month, sow seeds of California poppy, clarkia, larkspur and sweet peas. Peas may be seeded from October to January.

Prepare beds for wildflowers now. Weeds restrict the growth of wildflowers, so to control weeds, soak the soil thoroughly to germinate weed seeds. Then hoe down or pull the weeds in preparation for wildflower seeding. Repeat the process.

Continue to clear property of dead branches and woody debris, clean out rain gutters, and trim tree branches that touch the house or roof.

Fertilize flowering annuals, perennials and fall-planted vegetables for a strong start. Use a complete balanced fertilizer at planting time and for long season crops, again in 3 to 4 weeks.

Renew mulch around roses and other ornamentals. Late September and October are good times to divide crowded clumps of perennials. After they bloom divide plants like candytuft (Iberis spp.), daisy and penstemon to encourage growth and increase the number of plants. Our recent rain will make this project easier.

Mark your calendars for upcoming Master Gardener workshops: “Deer, Oh Deer!” is planned for Oct. 5; “No Sun, No Problem: Planting in the Shade” will be presented on Oct. 12. Both workshops will be held at the Demonstration Garden on the NID grounds from 10 a.m. to noon.

For questions about home gardening or any Master Gardener activities, call the Hotline at 530-273-0919 or go to the website at

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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