We are in the golden days of the fall planting season. Now is the time to plant groundcover and every other flowering perennial, shrub, tree and bulb.
For the next six weeks, root growth proceeds at an accelerated pace. Even if top growth is barely noticeable, the development of a strong root system now will result in proliferation of leafy shoots and flowers in the spring.
After you have planted your bulb beds with narcissus, daffodil, hippeastrum, freesia, ranunculus, tulip, iris and hyacinth, you can plant cool-season annuals over them. Pansy, primrose, chrysanthemum, stock, calendula and snap dragon are the staples of the fall and winter flower garden.
For a different look, plant nicotiana. These annuals, which are related to the tobacco plant of commerce, have wonderful star-shaped flowers that give off an evening fragrance and that will bloom until winter arrives.
For a different groundcover, try the Floral Carpet rose, available in white, pink, red and the recently released apple blossom. It’s sold in 2-gallon containers and is somewhat pricey since the floral carpet series is still under patent. But it’s worth the extra cost.
Floral Carpet roses flower for 10 months and are resistant to powdery mildew and blackspot diseases. They do not require extensive dead-heading, and pruning them once a year, at winter’s end, will be sufficient to revitalize them for next year’s growth. They can be grown anywhere in California.
Not only is October the best month to plant, it is also the month for attending to some important garden chores, especially in the area of lawn maintenance. This is the time to dethatch a Bermuda or Kikuyu lawn, to be followed by overseeding with winter rye. Actually, if the winter is warm, Kikuyu will not go into dormancy and will remain green without overseeding, but no one knows for sure how warm or cold the winter will be until it is past. It is also time to aerate and overseed a tall fescue (Marathon) lawn. Fertilize after lawn seed has germinated.
Eliminate garden weeds – this is the time when they go to seed. Seeds scattered from garden weeds in October will sprout all next spring and summer.
Fall is the season when hover flies are most active in the garden. These strictly beneficial insects – which hover like honeybees and have brilliant yellow, orange, and black stripes – pollinate flowers that are blooming now. They are also attracted to aphids, which they feast on with fanatic frenzy.
If you have been growing tender houseplants outside during summer, you should think about bringing them indoors, especially if you live in the Antelope Valley. Dracaenas and bamboo palms, for example, are excellent floor plants for shaded summer patios but can be killed during a severe frost.
Before bringing them indoors, spray your houseplants with fine horticultural oil to eliminate any malingering foliar insect pests. It is also wise to place houseplant containers in a tub of water at this time so as to drown any critters that may have taken up residence in the soil.
GARDEN TIP OF THE WEEK
For a fresh green plant that will grow through the winter, sow orange or grapefruit seeds. Immediately after eating a citrus fruit, take a few of its seeds and plant them in a small pot that contains topsoil or well-drained sandy soil. The seeds should be placed just below the soil surface. Put the pot next to a bright window and keep the soil moderately moist. If more than one seed germinates, allow the most robust seedling to develop and discard or individually pot the others.