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Preparing for Fall Planting

Prepare Now for Our Gardening Season
By Ron Vanderhoff - Nursery Manager

The next three months is the most important and the most active time of the year in our local gardens. Even though it has been hot and dry over the past couple of months, all of that is about to change.

You live in southern California, not Virginia or Illinois or Oregon. Our gardening season is nearly upon us. Hurry, there’s no time to waste. Plan, design, remove, order, repair and prepare. The gardening season is about to begin in Orange County.

You may be used to planting in the spring – most people are. That is because, even in southern California, you have been unknowingly subjected to a well-healed tradition of gardens revolving around spring. A tradition that is out of place here in southern California.

During your gardening lifetime you have been exposed to countless articles, television shows, books, advertisements and other stimuli subtly enforcing and reinforcing a tradition of spring planting. Good information for most gardeners; just not for those of us in this little sliver of land along the coast of California.

Over the next month or two, Roger’s Gardens and other good local horticulturists, will try to remove the “spring is for planting” message you have been subjected to. We will attempt to replace this misguided conviction with the more accurate “fall is for planting”. But we are a small voice, almost unheard among the much louder message of “springtime gardening”.

In Orange County we enjoy a Mediterranean climate, providing rain in the winter and drought in the summer. Winters are also mild here. So in our climate we plant in the fall to give our plants the advantage of winter and spring rainfall. This allows the roots to penetrate deeply and puts less stress on young plants. Instead of counting on a gardener to nurse new plants for the first few months, we do it the way nature has done it for millennia. In Southern California plants naturally germinate in the fall and winter, not in the spring.

Besides enjoying the rain, plants put in during the shorter days of fall or winter can focus on root development rather than above ground growth. Although they may look like they're doing nothing, they're actually establishing their roots, the key to future vigor.

If we have convinced you that fall is your big planting season, then there’s plenty to do. What areas of your garden do you want to plant or re-landscape this fall? What about that side yard that you’ve wanted to get to, the new vegetable garden, the perennial border or the new screening plants? Certainly the containers around the patio need a refresh. Maybe you have wanted to start over completely in part of your garden.

Now, just before the heart of the fall planting season begins, is the time to begin removing old, overgrown and unhealthy plants, getting ready for new ones. You may need to hire a landscape designer to help you coordinate your new planting scheme, coach you on the plant choices and give other advice. If you are planting a lot of plants or a large space you may need to place your plant order a month in advance so that all of the plants can be coordinated, staged and delivered on schedule, ready for your big planting chore.

Along with new plantings, your irrigation system may need an overhaul. Maybe you want to convert to water conserving drip irrigation, super-efficient MP Rotators or micro-sprinklers. Perhaps you want to install, upgrade, expand or repair your landscape lighting. How about new hardscape, walkways, patio covers or water features?

In anticipation of the planting season, soil preparation may be the most obvious chore to tackle. Incorporating organic amendments, organic nutrients, gypsum and humic acid and blending them thoroughly into your soil now will ensure a healthy environment for the new plants you will soon be adding.

So the season isn’t over – for us it’s just beginning. There’s so much to do. In a couple more weeks smart Orange County gardeners will be digging and planting with the same fury that the rest of the country reserves for spring. With planning and preparation now, smart gardeners will be ready for our planting season. Get ready.

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A Ron Vanderhoff Blog