Once we begin to list gardening projects for the fall, ideas keep coming.
As always, it is appropriate to pursue priorities only when the weather is inviting, and to work at a pace that supports your enjoyment of gardening. Seasonal projects can add to spring’s reawakening and the garden’s long-term success, but the plants will survive a little neglect, truth be told.
Prune Fruit Trees
If you are fortunate enough to have one or several apple trees, or other fruit trees, in your garden, they are likely to enter their dormant stage in December. During their dormancy, they should be pruned to produce a variety of benefits. The best practices depend on the kind of tree, its age, whether or not it has been neglected, and the specific reasons for pruning. That’s too many variables for this column, but well worth the tree owner’s research. An excellent source of information is The California Backyard Orchard, a website maintained by the University of California, Davis.
While visiting that website for pruning advice, check out the entry on Pests & Diseases as well. After pruning, seasonal spraying will discourage or eliminate pest and disease problems during the growing season.
The University of California always recommends organic methods, of course.
Sow Wildflower Seeds
This couldn’t be simpler…if it weren’t for the birds. But they can be outsmarted.
Purchase wildflower seeds at your favorite local garden center, or from one of mail order nurseries that specialize in California wildflowers.
- There are hundreds of California native wildflowers, but retailers will stock popular varieties, e.g., Arroyo Lupine, California poppy, five-spot, baby-blue-eyes, perennial flax, Chinese houses, gilia, bird’s eyes, California bluebell, satin flower, godetia, fiddleneck, tidy tips, beach evening primrose. Any combination of these would provide a pleasing display.
The California poppy, our state flower, is a popular and attractive choice, but be aware that it self-seeds freely and can become a nuisance in the garden.
If you have limited space in your garden, consider planting a swath of wildflowers, to simulate a natural growth pattern. Clear the area of mulch and any weeds, and broadcast the seeds in an informal pattern (not in rows!). Rake the area lightly to make the seeds less visible to our beloved birds, and keep them moist with light watering until the rains begin.
If you have a larger area to seed, you have the opportunity to create a wildflower meadow that will self-seed in future years. The method is essentially same, except on a larger scale.
Another timely task in this season is weeding. We’ll explore that need later.
We didn’t include any tasks with roses among November’s gardening priorities, because in this part of the year, in the Monterey Bay area, many roses are still growing actively, and even producing blossoms.
Here’s advice from All-American Rose Selections:
“It’s time to do nothing in the rose garden. Well, practically nothing, anyway. We have seen the breathtaking first big, beautiful blooms of summer. And now we marvel at the smaller, but perfect last roses of summer. Enjoy. Roll up the hose. Put away the pruners.”
One rose-related project to pursue without pruning would be prepare to transplant a rose that would do better in another location. (There is at least one such rose in my garden, which is struggling in the shade of an ever-larger Cotoneaster shrub.)
The preparation involves digging a hole in the new location. Dig a hole two to three times as wide as the root ball you expect to have, but only as deep. This will support horizontal root growth without risking excessive settling of the transplanted rose.
Then, wait until January or February, when the rose becomes completely dormant. Soak the new location thoroughly. Then, soak the rose, lift a good-sized root ball from the bed, and plant it in its new location. Water it in.