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Fall Gardening Choices: A Master Gardener’s Insights

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Gardening | 0 comments

There are many good fall choices for gardeners in Southern California, although the temperature, moisture or the lack thereof, wind, and soil may be challenging.

Flower colors and vegetable flavor are better for fall crops because of cooler temperatures during maturity compared to summer crops. It’s the reason that summer flowers in the North are so colorful.

November is a suitable time to plant many flowers: spring-flowering bulbs, clematis, honeysuckle, Dutch iris, larkspur, lily of the valley, petunia, phlox, pinks, salvia, scabiosa, sweet peas, trumpet creeper, sweet William, wisteria, and more.

A Dutch iris bloom

A Dutch iris bloom.

This month should be suitable to start a late crop by sowing carrot, Swiss chard, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, English pea, radish, spinach, and turnip seeds.

Also, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and American cabbage plants can be transplanted. We started harvesting cucumbers, green beans, sweet peppers, and squash from our fall crops about a month ago. Earlier this week, we started picking sweet corn. Our six fall tomato plants are loaded with green fruit.

Brussels sprouts on the plant

Brussels sprouts on the plant.

Those crops were planted late in August. It was rather hot and dry to start them earlier. Since it seemed so late, I measured the rows and counted and soaked the seeds for one day. The planting dates for most crops can vary up to a month or two.

Tomatoes at least one-half of mature size will be picked and stored in shallow cardboard boxes before a freeze. I’ll place them individually, only one layer deep, and stack them in the garage to ripen.

The ripe ones will go to the kitchen each week, and the spoiled ones will go to the compost. In the past, some tomatoes stored during November ripened as late as March. A more natural method is to dig up the plants and hang them upside down, but the roots are dirty, and the leaves drop later. You’ll have a mess to clean up.

Southern California is a great fall gardening area for many crops. It sure does beat a possible snow-bank from September to April.

Gardening Choices for Summer Crops

Some gardeners think spring-summer flower and vegetable crops are best for their family. Old plants should be removed and composted, and the soil should be tilled before the holiday season.

That should reduce some insects and allow the soil to settle before early planting. Then November and December are available for other projects.

The gardener who grew the world’s largest tomato (7 lbs, 12 oz) prepared the planting site during the fall.

My master gardener committee decided to plant Elbon rye and Austrian winter peas during September in their Extension Demonstration Garden. This method should reduce nematodes, increase the organic matter, and increase fertility.

Then November and December became available for other projects. The cover crop had to be tilled into the soil several weeks before planting.