Fall is for Planting
By Aileen Carroll for Van Winden’s Garden Center
As we roll into fall, Napans find themselves with the ideal conditions to plant trees, shrubs and annuals in the garden. While it is true that spring is the most popular time to plant, garden professionals know “fall is for planting!” This time of year, we find ourselves with cooler air temperatures, yet soil temperatures remain in the ideal range for root development. This spells truly perfect conditions for planting so be sure to take advantage of this moment!
Plant Spring-flowering Bulbs
When you have at least three to six inches of new growth If you have ever caught yourself dreaming of fields of daffodils, tulips or irises in the spring, then fall is the time to turn that dream into a reality. Anemones, freesia, ranunculus and hyacinths should also be planted this time of year. Many of these bulbs will multiply each year and do not require summer watering making them a wise ‘investment’ in your garden space.
Add a Tree
If you’ve been wanting to add a tree to your garden, fall is the best time to do it. Planting a tree can be a part of the solution for bad air, hot weather, damaged soil, too much wind, a shortage of food, struggling wildlife or a restless soul. Depending on which problem you might be trying to solve, a native, shade or fruit tree may fit the bill. Fall is the ideal time to plant trees because the warm soil/cool air environment of fall is perfect to get a tree established. That gentle start will have roots developing nicely before spring arrives and green growth takes off. That headstart with a tree that is planted in the fall makes a huge difference.
Take advantage of the fact that here in the Napa Valley we can grow vegetables all year long! September is the month to get the majority of your winter vegetable garden planted. Brassicas like broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and cabbage grow best when planted this time of year. September is also a wonderful month to plant lettuces, carrots, peas, radishes and spinach. Some of these can be planted year-round here in the Napa Valley, but know that a kiss of frost on peas makes them sweeter and the same is said to be true for broccoli. As the soil cools down for the winter months, the window to get these plants in the ground with good harvest results closes as well. Plan on getting most of these fall veggies in before mid-October.
Towards the end of the fall veggie planting window you can plant garlic. Varieties like Spanish Roja and California Baja White grow very easily in our Mediterranean climate when planted in October. Garlic won’t be ready to harvest until May or June. If you’re the type that is already planning your tomatoes for next summer, be sure to plant your garlic in a spot you won’t need for April/May tomato transplants.
Not keen on planting a fall veggie garden but have raised beds? Do not let them sit empty! Keep that soil healthy and alive by planting a cover crop. Your soil needs to have living roots in it year-round in order for it to perform its best. Many cover crops like fava beans and vetch actually pull nitrogen out of the air and fix it in your soil as they grow! Be sure to try the ‘chop and drop’ method where you cut the plants at their base when they first start to flower and leave the cuttings on the top of the beds. Cutting the plants at flowering time will ensure the maximum amount of nitrogen stays in your soil.
Potted Fall Color
September is the month to freshen up the pots on your porch or deck with seasonal annual color. Planting right now means you can maximize the usefulness of winter annual flowers like pansies, icelandic poppies, alyssum and calendula. If your pots will be in the shade in the winter, plan on planting primroses, violas or cyclamen.
Don’t let the winter blues get a hold of you this year. Adding something green or flowering to your home this fall will surely brighten the coming months. The good people at Van Winden’s Garden Center in Napa can help you pick out the perfect plant for your space. You can rest easy as we head into the holiday season knowing that you added to your garden at the best time of year to plant!