Fall is the time to clean, plan and prepare your garden
Fall is here and we are all moving into shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures. Fall is also an important time in your garden. Now is the time to put your garden to bed and plan and plant for the future.
At best, this has been a tough year for the gardeners in Marin. We have adapted to give our plants much less water than they would like. But much of the health of your garden depends on your fall chores, especially when there has been so much stress on the plants during this difficult drought year. Fall is also a good time to assess how insensitive your landscape is to fire and make the necessary changes.
• It is essential to do a thorough cleaning of the garden.
Before you start your fall cleanup, make a map of where you planted your vegetables this year. You don’t want to keep planting the same thing in the same spot every year as this can lead to disease and a lack of soil nutrients that these type of plants need to thrive. For your perennials like bulbs, you will know where they are in the spring.
• Clean diseased and damaged plant material to reduce fuel load and reduce the risk of disease overwintering. Place the diseased material in your green box instead of your compost pile.
• Perennials stay in the soil all year round, but they still need our attention. You can cut wilted plants like daisies, scabiae and hostas to a height of 3 to 6 inches or leave the pods for the birds.
• Now is a good time to divide perennials like irises, daylilies, hostas, coneflowers and yarrow. They have the advantage of being less crowded and you get better flowering.
• Continue to pull weeds before they go to seed and make more weeds to pull.
• This is also the time to plan ahead.
Now is the best time to plant trees, shrubs, native plants and perennials. Fall and winter rains (keep your fingers crossed) will help them establish thriving root systems for New Year’s growth.
• Fall is the time to plant spring bulbs.
• This is also a great time to plant fresh vegetables, such as peas, lettuce, onions, cabbage, broccoli and kale.
• To improve the health of your soil for next year’s harvest, covering the soil in your home garden is a good gardening practice. Applying 3-6 inches of organic mulch or compost creates a home and provides food for all microorganisms in the soil. Make sure all organic material is free of weeds or seed heads. Also make sure the wood mulch is kept 5 feet from any structure for fire safety. Healthy garden leaves are garden gold for your soil. Shred them before putting them on to prevent tangling. Planting a cover crop in your flower beds provides food for valuable soil microorganisms, suppresses weeds, and returns organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Legumes, such as broad beans and vetch planted in the fall add nitrogen to the soil. These seeds are cheaper to buy in bulk.
• Clean your garden tools before putting them away for the winter by washing them thoroughly and oiling the metal parts to prevent rusting. They may also need some sharpening. Sharp tools make your job easier and safer. Empty and wash your spray equipment with soap and water inside and out and let them dry completely.
• When your annuals start to wilt, allow a few to go to seed so you can pick them for next year’s garden. It is economical and fun to do.
• Organize your garden shed to get rid of things that no longer work or are in the way. Store your tags and cages. Check what you have used this season to see if anything needs replacing over the winter.
Finally, let’s hope for a rainy winter by browsing the seed catalogs in front of a warm fireplace.
Sponsored by UC Cooperative Extension, the University of California Marin Master Gardeners provides science and science information to home gardeners. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Attach photos for inquiries about pests or plant diseases. The office is closed for walk-in visits. Subscribe to the Leaflet, UC Marin Master Gardener’s free quarterly e-newsletter, at marinmg.ucanr.edu