All year long, people ask about the best time to plant. Slowly, we have learned that beautiful spring gardens have their genesis in the fall. That season has finally arrived – and now is the time to plant.
Even while air temperatures decrease and days shorten, the temperature of the soil remains warm. What this means is that root growth will continue throughout the fall and into the winter despite cessation of growth above ground. In fall and winter, newly installed plants establish themselves in preparation for an explosion of shoot and flower growth the following spring.
With the exception of tropicals and cactuses, all trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers benefit significantly from fall planting. Let’s say you are getting married next June and want your planter beds overflowing with floriferous ground covers – such as ivy geraniums and trailing verbena – by then. If you plant now, you will see little, if any, growth before March.
However, by June you will see such a profuse, wall-to-wall display of flowers that your eyes may get sore from looking. If, on the other hand, you wait until March to plant, you will see only a smattering of flowers when June arrives.
Not enough can be said about proper soil preparation. A good rule of thumb is this: Work as much aged compost into the ground as your back can tolerate.
You can make compost yourself by combining grass clippings with fallen leaves, and accelerate their decomposition by adding steer manure or blood meal to the pile.
Ready-made compost or soil amendments are also available at the nursery. Amend, a product which contains rice hulls, is especially recommended for vegetable gardens.
California natives take exception to the rule of using highly composted soil amendments in preparing the soil. While California natives demand a well-drained soil, they may succumb to soil fungus disease when planted in compost.
Two weeks ago, it was suggested here that some of the open space at Pierce College – instead of being turned into a proposed golf course – be restored to its original condition, that it be transformed into an arboretum of oak trees.
There were many positive responses to this idea, such as that from John and Pam Alfenito of Northridge, who wrote that “there are four members in our family and we would happily donate $400 to help the project get started.”
Peter Mann, from Granada Hills, responded as follows:
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could take those acres intended for water-hungry turf and golf balls and plant, for the enjoyment of everyone, a piece of our natural heritage, a bit of history and a future legacy?
“I grew up in Laurel Canyon in the late 1950s, when one could hike for miles without finding signs of civilization. I had a mountain in the back of my house that I used to climb, back into the chaparral. In a nook in the hillside grew a glorious oak tree, my solace and childhood friend.
A rope dangled from a tall branch upon which my friends and I swung for many an hour. It was a theater, a jungle gym and a device of the imagination that took me to virtually any place I wanted, places to which today’s children cannot go. How about an oak park for tomorrow’s children?”