Even if you are not planning to plant many veggies and herbs this fall, you should definitely invest the time to plant a cover crop in both your garden and raised beds. Cover crops take very little effort. You plant them once, water initially to get them started, and then let Mother Nature take over — assuming we are blessed with another wet winter.
Here in the Bay Area, the primary need is to add nitrogen to our heavy clay soil in order to loosen it up and feed our plants. Excellent nitrogen-fixing crops include vetch, cowpeas, fava beans, and crimson clover. Buckwheat is a great choice if you want a quick fix. It germinates in about five days and is ready to be turned under in about a month. You can feed your soil now, and still get a great fall garden planted.
For information and cool-season crops, don't miss the upcoming Fall Garden Market at Martial Cottle Park's Harvest Festival Oct. 7. The festival celebrates the agricultural heritage of Santa Clara Valley. There will be food, entertainment, activities for the kids, park tours, and more.
You will find seedlings of many Asian and Italian greens such as Chinese broccoli, pak choi, tatsoi, chicory, escarole, and radicchio. There will be dozens of varieties of beets, cabbage, and cauliflower. Try growing a few leafy greens that are great in soups, stews, and stir-fry meals, such as chard, kale, and mustard. They are cut-and-come-again plants that will keep on giving through next spring. And, if like me, you can't live without a fresh salad, you will find a variable salad bar of lettuce, spinach, arugula, cress, and mache to grow; all you'll need for serving them is a little vinaigrette!
And yes, there will be peas, turnips, onions, and even kohlrabi, collards, and artichokes.
Don't miss out on the blooming beauties: Agrostemma, Clarkia, Delphinium, Larkspur, Linaria, Snapdragons, Sweet Peas. Flowers not only add beauty, but bring in the bees and beneficial insects necessary for pollination and fending off the “bad bugs” that can damage your garden.
Whether you are a seasoned-gardener or just starting out, you can pick up lots of tips from the festival's free educational talks — Amazing Succulents, Cool Season Vegetables, Glorious Garlic, and Native Plants.
Growing your own food, whether with your family or by yourself, is not only enjoyable but truly important! You will conserve water, waste less (no one wants to throw away what they have worked to grow), avoid using harmful chemicals, nurture your soil, and help support and feed our native birds, bees, and other insects. And most importantly, you will make a huge, positive impact on your children; kids actually will eat what they grow! So head on out to one of our upcoming Fall Markets, and dig in!
Upcoming Fall Fall Markets
There are three upcoming Santa Clara County Master Gardeners Fall markets The main event will be at San Jose's Martial Cottle Park (5283 Snell Ave.) on Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, but there is a $6 parking fee.
Other Master Gardener Fall Garden Markets will be presented Sept. 23, 10 a.m.-noon, Palo Alto Demo Garden, 851 Center Dr., Palo Alto; and Oct. 14, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Guglielmo Winery, 1480 E. Main Ave., Morgan Hill.
by UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the September 17 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.
There are some great resources to help you do your homework when planning additions to your garden.
This is an ideal time to add California native plants. The California Native Plant Society has a resource, Calscape, that lists plants that are native specifically to your area. One of my favorites for (zip code) 95037 is Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd. I love its reddish, crooked branches. At about 15' tall, in sun or shade, it's easy to fit into many gardens. Calscape also lists some annual wildflowers native to Morgan Hill. How about Baby Blue Eyes and Smooth Tidy Tips?
Santa Clara County Master Gardeners have a Waterwise Plant list that gives you great tips about which plants thrive in our area. You can choose based on plant type, and water and sun/shade requirements. They've done the testing for you, and the practical notes about growing conditions and watering are really helpful.
I'm renovating a garden with old oaks and here's what's on my list, that could easily be on your list, even if you don't have oaks. These are all typically easy to find in your local nursery. If you don't see them, they can order for you.
Arctostaphylos Howard McMinn – Howard McMinn manzanita is a native, medium sized (6' x 10') shrub that can be kept smaller by pruning. It is both drought and garden tolerant. I think it's quietly elegant and a graceful addition to any garden. It plays well with lots of other plants.
Correa Dusky Bells and Ivory Bells – I love Australian fuchsias and use them a lot. Dusky Bells is smaller (1' x 3'), with reddish pink flowers. I'm getting attached to Ivory Bells with its creamy white flowers and grey green, felt-like leaves. In the oak garden, it's planted next to A. Howard McMinn and underplanted with Stachys Helen von Stein, with its furry grey leaves, and they look great together.
This same planting bed under the oak includes Rubus pentalobus, a quiet, low dark green carpet, and iris Canyon Snow. There are lots of colors (purple, ochre, pale yellow, bronze) to choose from with our native iris, but I keep going back to the pure white charm of Canyon Snow.
Another area of this garden, includes drifts of Arctostaphylos Carmel Sur. Carmel Sur manzanita is my current favorite, low growing (1' x 4-6') native manzanita. It has glossy green leaves and grows relatively quickly. I'm also adding in Carpenteria californica Elizabeth as part of a mixed border.
When you're looking for inspiration and advice about great plants for your garden, make sure you also check out the UC Davis Arboretum All Stars plants list.
The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don't need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden.
Use your local Master Gardeners for advice to grow by! Call our hotline Monday through Friday, 9:30-12:30 at 408-283-3105.
by UC Master Gardener Janet Enright
This article first appeared in the September 21 issue of the Morgan Hill Times.