Ann Wright: Master Gardener’s fall plant sale kicks off Saturday | TheUnion.com

Ann Wright: Master Gardener’s fall plant sale kicks off Saturday

Ann Wright
Columnist

With the change in temperatures and fall-like weather, this is a very nice time to be outside gardening. 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 loose 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 plants seek summer dormancy. An example is milkweed — planted in the fall, this plant will die back over winter and reappear next spring just in time for Monarch butterfly migration.

Come and get 'em

The Nevada County Master Gardener's fall plant sale is from 9 a.m. to noon today at the demonstration garden on the Nevada Irrigation District grounds at 1036 W. Main St. in Grass Valley.

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A variety of perennials, native plants and grasses will be available as well as vegetables. Some of the plants for sale include native milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis and Asclepias speciosa), Clary sage (Salvia sclera), canyon snow iris (Iris douglasiana) and Mock orange (Philidelphius lewisii).

Ornamentals such as butterfly bush (buddleia davidii), yellow twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) and bush germander (Teucrium fruiticans), forsythia and coral bells will also be for sale. Cool season favorites such as leafy greens, arugula, lettuces, mizuna, chard and kale will also be available at the sale.

Arrive early for the best selection, and please remember to only bring cash or checks.

Soil talk

Fall is also an opportune time to amend soil. Building good soil is a key to growing healthy, strong plants.

Consider soil as a "living" ecosystem – soil isn't just "dirt," but teams with billions of microorganisms, fungi and other microbes that form the foundation for a system that provides nutrients for plant growth.

Ways to improve soil include adding compost — equal parts of decomposed browns and greens; disturbing the soil as little as possible by avoiding compaction, and by keeping plants in the soil for as long as possible to support the soil food web process.

To learn more about building good soil, plan to attend the Master Gardeners workshop from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 29, "IT'S ALIVE! How to Build Living Soil for Healthy Plants," at the Demonstration Garden (1036 W. Main St. in Grass Valley).

Tips & tricks for fall

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

When planning native plant beds, choose plants that have similar soil water and light requirements.

Winter annuals planted now bloom better next spring. At the end of the month, sow seeds of California poppy, clarkia, larkspur and sweet peas.

Prepare the 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 fire fuel such as 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 three to four weeks.

Renew mulch around roses and other ornamentals. Divide crowded clumps of perennials.

For questions about these or other Master Gardener events, contact the hotline at 530-272-0919 or check our website at http://www.ncmg.ucanr.org.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardner.

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