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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of June 4:

Because of the comfortable weather, it’s not too late to set out tomato and pepper seedlings as well as squash and melon plants. They’ll appreciate this not-too-hot weather. Just remember to water.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, melons, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

* Let the grass grow longer. Set the mower blades high to reduce stress on your lawn during summer heat. To cut down on evaporation, water your lawn deeply during the wee hours of the morning, between 2 and 8 a.m.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Cut back fruit-bearing canes on berries.

* Feed camellias, azaleas and other acid-loving plants.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

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