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Resources for gardening in fall --- when it finally gets here

Bookmark these sites now for easy reference

Lady beetle on bean leaves
A lady beetle rests on bell bean plants, which are
an excellent cover crop. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Autumn officially begins in a little less than three weeks. The rest of the country is starting to shut down the gardening season, but not California. If the weather cooperates -- and that's no sure bet these days in the Sacramento region -- gardeners here can indulge in a favorite activity: Fall planting.

Warm soil and cooler nights, with somewhat lower daytime temps, combine for perfect planting conditions, especially for perennials. The conditions also are good for cool-weather vegetable transplants, fall/winter annuals and some trees. This window should last through October at least.

Normally at this time of year, I make a beeline to the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center's September Open Garden. I like to see what the UCCE Sacramento County master gardeners are planting for fall and to talk about what went right over the summer.

But it was just announced that the Sept. 12 event is canceled. No surprise there, given the continued COVID-19 risk and limits on group gatherings.

But the master gardeners are still around, busy and answering questions, online though not by phone. And they have a wonderful website full of information to guide any gardener through fall planting.

Specific information that I refer to often includes:

-- This handy planting chart for the Sacramento region. It shows, for example, that now through mid-October is the best time for planting carrots from seed, but it's best to wait until mid-September to plant spinach seeds.

-- The most complete guide to growing vegetables you'll ever find in just 7 pages. For this time of year, it includes important advice about rotating crops to prevent disease and pest build-up:

"Finally, make it a habit to change the location of crops each year. Rotating crops in the garden not only enhances soil fertility, but it can be effective against insect and disease pests that develop on a narrow range of vegetable plants. Moving crops to different sites isolates such pests from their food sources. This practice reduces the chances that soil-borne insect and disease pests will gain a permanent foothold in your garden."

-- Cover cropping guidelines . This is such a good practice to improve soil health. If you have a spot that's not going to be planted for fall, designate it for a cover crop.

-- Unlike most of the Hort Center, the Water Efficient Landscape area is open to the public during normal Fair Oaks Park hours. Check it out online or on site for ideas on planting natives and other perennials that can beautify your garden while using little water. Again, fall's the best time for planting perennials!

In addition to the Sacramento master gardeners' website, some other good regional resources for fall planting:

-- Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply, at , has a number of how-to videos. Here's one on choosing and planting garlic , a timely topic.

-- The UCCE master gardeners of El Dorado County at 9 a.m. this Saturday are offering a free Zoom class, "Fall and Winter Vegetables Part 2." Go to their Facebook page to register and get the link. Part 1, held Aug. 22, was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube at the UCCE Central Sierra site .

-- And Farmer Fred Hoffman has some great reminders in his post "What NOT to do in the garden in fall."


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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