Written by Susan B.
Southern California is a garden lover’s paradise. We have a mild climate that affords us the chance to grow things all year. Whether you discover flowering plants you love in one of our stores, or see them in gardens around your neighborhood or at friends’ homes, finding things to plant in your home garden is probably never an issue. What may be a source of confusion is what to grow during specific months of the year. We’re going to give you an idea of what you can plant during September and October.
Remember, we’re entering the Santa Ana Winds period, and those conditions, coupled with our current wildfires, may produce challenging growing conditions – even for experienced gardeners.
Solidago Rugosa is the botanical name for Goldenrod. People often confuse Goldenrod for Ragweed, which is the source of seasonal allergies, but they are different plants. Goldenrod produces clusters of cheerful yellow flowers during Autumn. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, and it grows to a height of about 4 feet. It needs to grow in well-draining soil and in a location that gets full sun.
The botanical name for Perennial Sunflower is Helianthus maximiliani. A spectacular cultivar that provides a bright and creamy yellow color to the fall garden is ‘Lemon Queen.’ It grows best in full sun, where it can reach a massive height of 8 feet tall. It needs to grow in soil with excellent drainage. Perennial Sunflower is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9.
Mexican Bush Sage
Salvia leucantha is one of the showiest cultivars of sage. Mexican Bush Sage, as we commonly know it, has downy-soft white stems. The leaves are grayish-green, and the flowers are a vibrant pinkish purple color. The plant is known for attracting hummingbirds. It grows as a perennial in Southern California, but as an annual in other parts of the country. Plant it in a location that gets full sun and in soil that has ample drainage. Mexican Bush shade grows to a height of 4-feet. It is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10.
Agastache foeniculum, which is commonly known as Anise Hyssop, is a drought-tolerant perennial. It produces bluish-lavender colored flowers that smell like licorice. It blooms for many months throughout the summer and fall. A member of the mint family, it is a pollinator-attracting plant. It is wildly popular with hummingbirds, and that is why it is often called ‘hummingbird mint.’ Plant it in a spot that gets full sun and in soil that drains well. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9.
Chelone lyonii or Turtlehead gets its name from the shape of its bright pink blossoms that resemble a turtle’s head. It starts to bloom in August and continues to bloom until freezing weather sets in, but likely for much longer in Southern California because freezing temperatures are a rare occurrence here. Turtlehead is a wise choice for bogs, ponds, and other water areas because it thrives in damp soil. Plant Turtlehead in partial shade and in a location where it can benefit from consistently moist soil. It grows to a height of 3 feet, and it is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9.
Our Southern California soil is still warm during September and October, so this is a fabulous time of the year for planting vegetables for late fall and winter harvests. As the weather gets cooler because of shorter days and less daylight, your vegetable plants will start to need less water, and lower water needs will continue throughout the winter.
Planting cool weather crops now gives them more time to mature. At the same time, warmer soil temperatures help seeds sprout faster. It also allows seedlings and starter plants to jump-start their growth. Lucy Heyming, master gardener and host of the “Gardening With Lucy” program on Riverside TV, says that fall is a fabulous time to plant.
Before planting new crops, choose a location that gets full sun. That means it needs to get at least 8-hours of sun every day. Clear the area of all debris to prevent possible disease spread or insect and pest infestations. Add plenty of compost or aged manure to the planting site.
If you plan to grow vegetables in containers, dump any soil that’s currently in pots. Using fresh soil in containers is just as important as crop rotation when growing vegetables in the ground.
Vegetables to Plant
Beets are easy to grow from seed. Choose different colored beets to add color to your fall vegetable garden. Stagger planting intervals for an extended harvest season. Unless you know you’ll be able to thin the seedlings, space your seeds far enough apart to allow each beet’s roots to mature.
If you want to plant broccoli now to get multiple harvests out of your plants, buy starter plants. Dig holes deep enough to cover plant stems up to the second row of leaves. This ensures that stems will be strong and secure, and that they’ll grow straight upward.
Cabbage grows slowly. It also takes up a lot of room. Each head of cabbage will spread about two feet in circumference. As long as the weather doesn’t get too hot, you can wait to harvest cabbage heads. In extreme heat, cabbage will bolt and start to flower.
Kale adds visual appeal and interest to an edible garden. However, the ornamental varieties, which are also edible, add more intense to the garden as the temperatures drop. Kale, like cabbage, can grow very large, so allow plenty of space between plants. If you want to grow kale in a container, choose one with a diameter of at least 10-inches. And place no more than one kale plant in a pot.
Cool weather leafy greens include arugula, lettuce, mustard, spinach, and Swiss chard. Stagger lettuce and other leafy green plantings every two weeks to maximize your harvest time. And you can always pick the smaller outer leaves to use in salads – if you feel that your plants need thinning.
Peas have a hard outer shell that can make it take longer for seeds to sprout. If you soak them overnight (or longer), the hard outer shell will soften and that helps seeds sprout faster. Plant your peas in a location where you can give them support. Even bush peas benefit from the support of a trellis.
Radishes are fast growers. Stagger radish plantings to extend your harvests. You will need to thin radish seedlings to make room for the radish bulbs to form underground. You can use the thinnings (including the roots) as a garnish in soups, salads, or other dishes. You can plant radishes in containers, but if you want to do so, choose a pot that is at least 4 -inches deep with a diameter of at least 16-inches.
We encourage you to take advantage of our fabulous climate to grow food crops to eat and flowers to enjoy as you and your family spend time outside to the extent that you can this fall. Our gardening experts are always available to assist you whether you come in to find things or call us to inquire about our current inventory.
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