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Fall 2021

Gardener's Checklist for Fall

SEPTEMBER

Reduce irrigation times as day length shortens and plant growth slows. Photo: UC Regents
Reduce irrigation times as day length shortens and plant growth slows. Photo: UC Regents
Maintenance and prevention

  • Reduce irrigation times as day length shortens and plant growth slows.
  • Add garden waste, grass clippings, pruning material, and leaves to your compost so long as they are not diseased. Turn compost and keep it as moist as a wrung-out sponge. 
  • Refresh the spring application of mulch to bring it to two to four inches.

Planting and propagating

  • Divide overgrown perennials as they finish blooming. Before replanting them, weed and amend garden beds.
  • Renovate lawn by seeding bare spots, dethatching, and fertilizing. Consider replacing or reducing lawn area. Learn more about lawn care.
  • Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, perennials, evergreens, and groundcovers.

Cutting and pruning

  • Cut strawflowers, statice, yarrow, and other flowers that preserve well. Hang them to dry for use in arrangements.
  • Prune evergreen, summer-flowering shrubs.

Pests and weeds

  • Reduce spider mites, scale, and other insect pests by taking houseplants outside and spraying them down with the hose in a part shade area. Keep the foliage dust free to discourage indoor pests.
  • Use caulk to seal entries that ants may use to enter your home.
  • Manage aphids and scale on outdoor and indoor plants to discourage ants.

Feed and fertilize

  • Fertilize houseplants if needed.
  • Feed azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons with an organic fertilizer with no nitrogen.
  • Feed citrus for the last time of the year, if needed.

Edibles

  • Plant cover crops to improve soil structure and fertility.
  • Plant artichokes, arugula, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, kale, lettuce, bunching onions, and peas.
  • Learn more about crops to plant in September and other activities in the edible garden.

Fire-smart Landscaping

  • Clear leaf and needle litter from gutters, roof, eaves, and vents.
  • Clear branches 10 feet from the roof and chimney.
  • Learn more about Fire-smart Landscaping.

OCTOBER

Fall is the perfect time to plant native plants, like this California fuchsia (Epilobium). Photo: Marie Narlock
Fall is the perfect time to plant native plants, like this California fuchsia (Epilobium). Photo: Marie Narlock
Maintenance and prevention

  • Reduce irrigation times significantly as day length shortens and plant growth slows or stops.
  • Clean up diseased and damaged plant materials so pathogens don’t overwinter.
  • Add garden waste, grass clippings, pruning material, and leaves to compost so long as they are not diseased. Turn compost and keep it as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Cover before rains start to retain moisture; cover during rainy weather to avoid the pile becoming waterlogged.
  • Add compost and organic soil amendments but don’t disturb shallow-rooted plants.
  • Refresh the spring application of mulch to bring it to two to four inches. (Avoid thicker layer of bark mulch as it may hide smoldering embers in the event of a nearby fire.)
  • Clean garden tools. Disease microorganisms may also overwinter on the surface of stakes, tomato cages, trellises, and other garden equipment. Remove all soil from the tools and clean them with a 10% bleach solution or other disinfectant to protect your tools from spreading diseases. Apply a light layer of oil to prevent rusting if you will not be using them for a while. Wash garden gloves.
  • Visit nurseries to see trees and shrubs with outstanding fall color; determine if there’s a place in your garden that would benefit from one of these selections.

Planting and propagating

  • Plant California natives. This is the perfect time.
  • Reseed bare spots in your lawn or install sod. Consider reducing or replacing your lawn to conserve water.
  • Plant ornamental grasses, shrubs, perennials, evergreens and groundcovers. Winter rains will help establish sturdy root systems.

Cutting and pruning

  • Lightly prune Japanese maples while still in leaf. Select and plant maples; now is the time to see fall color.
  • Prune deciduous trees and shrubs that need pruning such as crape myrtle, rose, and Spirea
  • Do not prune evergreen trees in the fall, since wound closure is 20% slower.

Pests and weeds

  • Visit your garden after dark with a flashlight and handpick snails and slugs. Control measures in fall help reduce populations in spring.

Feed and fertilize

  • Feed azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons with an organic fertilizer with no nitrogen.
  • Change feeding program for cymbidium. During the fall and winter, use a formula with low nitrogen and higher potassium and phosphorus monthly to promote more and bigger blooms.

Edibles

  • Continue with last of summer harvest.
  • Plant artichokes, arugula, kale, garlic, shallots, and lettuce.
  • Learn more about crops to plant in October and other activities in the edible garden.

Fire-smart Landscaping

NOVEMBER

Create new planting areas by sheet mulching over weed patches or unwanted lawn. Photo: UC Regents
Create new planting areas by sheet mulching over weed patches or unwanted lawn. Photo: UC Regents
Maintenance and prevention

  • Mulch bare soil to hold in moisture, keep out weeds, and prevent compaction by hard rains.
  • Clean up the garden before the rains begin. Remove leaves and debris from under and around plants.
  • Create new planting areas by sheet mulching over weed patches or unwanted lawn.
  • Turn off irrigation system for the season; continue to water plants under overhangs.
  • Protect sensitive plants from cold injury when frost is predicted. Water the garden if it hasn’t rained recently. (Do not water succulents if frost is in the forecast.)
  • Clean and store any unused pots and containers that can be used as hiding places by overwintering insects, slugs, and spiders.
  • Clean garden tools. Disease microorganisms also overwinter on the surface of stakes, tomato cages, trellises, and other garden equipment. Remove all soil from the tools, and clean them with a 10% bleach solution or other disinfectant to protect tools from spreading diseases. Apply a light layer of oil to prevent rusting if you will not be using them for a while. Wash garden gloves.

Planting and propagating

  • Plant shrubs, perennials, and treesFall is for planting! Winter rains will help develop a strong root system. 
  • Plant spring blooming bulbs.
  • Plant California natives. Late fall, just as the rains start, is the best time for planting natives and scattering seeds of annual wildflowers.
  • Dig, divide, and replant overgrown perennials for more profuse blooms next spring.
  • Plant bulbs for spring color, including daffodils, crocus, freesia and hyacinths.
  • Remove all but one fat bud from each camellia stem for larger blooms.

Cutting and pruning

  • Lightly prune Japanese maples while still in leaf. Select and plant maples for fall color.
  • Do not prune evergreen trees during fall, since wound closure is 20% slower.
  • Remove dead, broken, or diseased limbs from trees and shrubs.

Pests and weeds

  • Do not compost debris from fuchsias, roses, and the camellia/rhododendron/azalea family, as they can spread a variety of fungi and molds and allow undesirable insects to overwinter.
  • Manage rainy season weeds before they flower using non-chemical methods such as cultivation, hand weeding, or mowing. Use toxic chemicals only as a last resort.

Edibles

  • Plant garlic, shallots, and peas.
  • Learn more about crops to plant in November and other activities in the edible garden.

Fire-smart Landscaping

  • Create adequate spacing of trees and shrubs in your garden to minimize the transmission of fire from one plant to another and ultimately to your house.
  • Learn more about Fire-smart Landscaping.