November Garden Planner
In this month of giving thanks, gardeners hope to be grateful for wet weather — perhaps an El Niño effect. Before rain falls, get natives in the ground to benefit from winter weather. Also take steps to collect rainwater and direct runoff into drought-parched landscapes. Shop for cool-season annuals and edibles and wildflower seeds. Then, on a rainy day, sit inside with a good gardening book or seed catalog.
Rockin’ in the Nursery
A trip down nursery aisles bursting with annual flowers is pure temptation. Avoid warm-season growers like petunias and zinnias; they will fade quickly now. Instead, look for cool-season annuals like stock, pansies, violas, primroses and poppies. If possible, choose plants in bud, not bloom; they’ll flower and live longer in the garden. Loosen tightly wrapped roots before putting plants in the ground. Annuals are hungry plants; satisfy them with high-bloom fertilizer right after planting and several times during growing season.
Now through mid-month is ideal planting time for pungent garlics — softneck, the supermarket basic; hardneck, a chef’s favorite; or elephant, a leek relative with large bulbs and mild flavor. Stick individual cloves, pointed end up, about an inch down in a sunny site with well-draining soil. Cool temperatures cause garlic to sprout. Use seeds purchased from seed companies or nurseries; supermarket varieties may have been sprayed to delay or reduce sprouting. Tried-and-true varieties include softneck ‘Silver Rose’ and ‘California Early’ and extra-pungent hardneck ‘Spanish Roja’ and ‘German Red Rocambole.’ When leaf tops fall over in early summer, lift bulbs from the ground, air dry, trim off roots and foliage, and store in a cool place. Look for a good selection at kitchengardenseeds.com and reneesgarden.com.
No Time for Thyme
Popular herbs like thyme and basil like to bask in summer sun. A select choice of herbs prefer the cooler, shorter, wetter days of late fall and winter. Plant them now to enjoy their good looks in the garden and distinct flavors in the kitchen. Shop for seeds or starter plants at nurseries, including specialty growers like Pearson’s Gardens & Herb Farm in Vista.
Cilantro — Start this popular seasoning from seeds (it dislikes being transplanted) and enjoy fresh-snipped leaves through early spring. Choose a sunny site, and keep the fast-growing seedlings evenly moist but not soggy. Pinch off flower buds to extend the harvest, or choose slow-bolt varieties.
Parsley — Frilly-leafed French parsley and flat-leafed Italian parsley mix easily among ornamentals and edibles and thrive in containers. Soak seeds in warm water for 24 hours before planting. Then be patient, while keeping the planting site evenly moist; germination can take up to three weeks. Fertilize regularly for lush harvests.
Dill — Start this handsome, pungent herb from seeds in the ground to avoid disturbing its taproot. Pick a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Barely cover the seeds, as they need light to germinate. Protect tender seedlings with berry baskets and bait to discourage snails. In warmer inland areas, grow slow-bolt varieties like ‘Dukat.’
Sorrel — Rarely found in supermarkets, this tangy, lemony herb stars in classic French soup and sauces. Choose seeds for the culinary French sorrel, Rumex acetosa. Grow seeds uncovered in light shade and keep moist until plants are established; then they survive on
low water and little care.
Chervil — A chef’s favorite, chervil leaves blend parsley and anise flavors. After sowing, allow up to three weeks for germination. Chervil goes to seed quickly when temperatures climb; look for volunteer seedlings next fall.
Despite best efforts, officials confirmed this past summer that nine trees in Los Angeles County were infected with greening disease, leading to renewed calls to home gardeners to be alert for signs of the fatal disease and the Asian citrus psyllids that spread it. A widespread outbreak of the disease has devastated Florida’s citrus industry. Hoping to slow the disease’s advance, officials released wasps that attack psyllids. The website californiacitrusthreat.com has photos of the insect, spotted from Mexico to the Central Valley, and provides information on how to report a sighting and recognize symptoms of the disease. In addition to regular inspection, gardeners should buy citrus trees — labeled with the grower’s name — from creditable, established nurseries. Avoid moving citrus plants around the county or elsewhere. Also, double-bag any citrus tree debris for disposal.
Dance Sessions Style
San Diego Floral Association is bringing ragtime rhythms to its annual celebration of Kate Sessions’ birthday. The famed horticulturist, known as “the Mother of Balboa Park,” is one of SDFA’s founders. The free festivities on Nov. 7 (4:30-7:30 p.m. at Balboa Park’s Hall of Champions) feature the music of Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra and dance contests with cash prizes. Cut a rug in vintage attire if you choose. Details are at sdfloral.org.
Full Fall Day
Also on Nov. 7 (and perfectly timed for San Diego’s second planting season and early holiday shopping), the Water Conservation Garden’s Fall Plantstravaganza brims with daylong fun. Find drought-tolerant plants from Southern California growers, learn about rebates available from the garden’s partner water agencies and explore the gift shop. Sign up for consultations with landscape design professionals ($20 for 20 minutes; register by calling 619-660-0614, ext. 10). The garden, which showcases an array of water-wise gardens and technol-ogy, is located on the Cuyamaca College campus in El Cajon. Admission to Fall Plantstravaganza is $3 (free for members and children 12 and under). Details are at thegarden.org.
For an in-depth look at a popular flowering perennial with succulent foliage, pick up The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums by Brent Hovath (Timber Press, 2014). Included are profiles of 150 varieties, tips for landscape uses, and detailed care and propagation information. The guide is available from area bookstores and from online retailers, including timberpress.com.
And don’t forget to:
•Add a southern highbush blueberry suited to warm climates to your container garden. Early-, mid-and late-season varieties supply delicious berries from winter into spring.
• Prune deciduous fruit trees now that their leaves have dropped to control their size for easy harvest next season.
• Disinfect pruning tools after each use to prevent the spread of disease among plants. Use rubbing alcohol or a weak bleach solution.
• Turn off irrigation when rain is predicted, and keep it
off for at least two days after significant rainfall.
• Attend the San Diego Horticultural Society’s November meeting to discover smart solutions for small gardens from a panel of local landscape designers. Details are at sdhort.org.
• Purchase and plant bare-root bundles of low-chill strawberry varieties.
• Spray for peach leaf curl to prevent this fungal disease from debilitating peach and nectarine trees. For instructions, visit imp.usdavis.edu and search for UC Pest Note 7436 Leaf Curl.
• Bait for snails and slugs that thrive in cool, wet weather. Or handpick them to toss in the trash.