Fall is Best Time to Plant Strawberries



One of the biggest surprises for people who move here from cold winter climates is the discovery that gardening in Los Angeles is a year-round enterprise.
You can put seeds and transplants in the ground whenever you wish, and soon enough you can watch them sprout and produce flowers and fruits. You can start a vegetable garden in any season. Certain crops, such as lettuce, carrots, beets and radishes, may find a place in warm- and cool-season gardens.
The only difference is that this time of year, leaf and root crops can all be planted in full sun, whereas in spring or summer, they may require some sun protection. Garlic and winter onions are particularly recommended for fall planting, as are cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Another edible worthy of fall planting is the strawberry. November is the best month to plant strawberries. Growing strawberries is tricky because the fungi that inhabit our soil may decimate the plants before they really get started.
One way of combating soil fungi is to grow a cover crop such as red clover for a year or two prior to planting the strawberries. Red clover has a reputation for diminishing soil pests of all types, from insects to nematodes (microscopic wormlike organisms) to pathogenic bacteria and fungi.
Another problem with strawberries is that in their enthusiasm to harvest, people don’t give the plants enough time to establish themselves before allowing them to flower and fruit. It is advisable to pluck off the first crop of strawberry flowers prior to their setting fruit. By demonstrating this restraint, you will have stronger plants and many more strawberries to pick after the plants flower the second and third and fourth time around. In any event, even though strawberries are perennials, it is difficult to grow them for more than a few years in the same location before there is a drop-off in fruit production.
As strawberry companion plants, grow spinach and fennel. California wildflowers may also be planted this month. Aside from the famous orange poppies, consider clarkias, monkey flowers and lupines. Delphiniums, sometimes called larkspurs, whose densely flowered spires are beloved by all, should also be planted now. They are typically seen in pink, mauve and blue, and are classic English garden plants. California native larkspur species also appear in scarlet and yellow.
Q: The freesias, ranunculus and, possibly, the daffodil bulbs that I left in the ground after they bloomed last spring have sent up lush springlike foliage, and my purple iris is in full bloom. I’ve seen the iris bloom off and on all year, but I’ve never seen the others leaf out this early. Is it possible they are going to bloom now, and if they do, does this mean they won’t bloom in the spring?
– Stevie Gere,
Atwater Village
A: Excepting the iris, which is probably a reblooming variety, your other bulbs will only bloom once a year. Freesias, ranunculus and certain daffodils, as well as anemones, scilla, sparaxis and watsonia, do not require winter chilling and tend to bloom earlier than Dutch tulips, hyacinths and other cold-weather dependent bulbs.
TIP OF THE WEEK: You can germinate seeds from any citrus fruit by separating them from the pulp and immediately dropping them into ordinary water. Soak them for one week, changing the water daily. Plant them in any well-drained soil, no more than 1/2 inch deep, and they should sprout within three weeks.

Photo credit: katiew / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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