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Plants in the SCV love the fall

Garden: Now is the season to plant bulbs, flowers, veggies

Posted: September 16, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: September 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.

A bee hovers above a display of snapdragon flowers at Green Thumb International in Newhall. Snapdragons are available in six packs for $2.99.

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With Halloween decorations cropping up all around you, and what is sure to be a temporary respite from the heat, you might be thinking dormant days are here and you can start neglecting your landscaping.

Well, it’s not yet time to retire to your recliner. This is the perfect time of year to plant winter flowers and vegetables, and to get your other plants prepared for colder weather and a vibrant bust-out in spring.

Laura Gullas and Sandy Cudmore, two advanced, certified nursery professionals at Green Thumb International nursery in Newhall, fill us in.

Cudmore said cool season vegetables are available now. Root crops, such as beets, carrots and radishes, are easy to grow.

Carrots and radishes can be planted close together, where the carrots will continue to grow larger after the faster growing radishes have been harvested. Also, start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and celery now.

It’s a good time for lettuce and spinach, but be prepared to provide some temporary shade when hot Santa Ana days arrive. Stakes with shade cloth block some sun without blowing over.

“We have a variety of lettuce,” Gullas said, and pointed out trays of red romaine, green leaf and other types.

“You can take a large pot, mix in different types of lettuce, and have a decorative and edible planter,” she said.
Green Thumb also has many other vegetables available, including cauliflower and beets.

Cudmore said bulbs planted in the fall, by the end of October, will bring wonderful color to your garden, beginning with the daffodils in early spring.

“I’m delighted each year when the daffodil bulbs I planted many years ago come up —  like the first sign spring is coming,” Cudmore said.

Now is the time to “trick” tulip and hyacinth bulbs into “thinking” it’s winter. Place the bulbs in paper bags in the refrigerator, away from apples. After six weeks of chilling, plant the bulbs in the garden for amazing spring color.

“We have old school daffodil bulbs,” Gullas said, meaning typical colors, “but we also have wilder colors.”

She pointed out daffodil bulbs, sold in packages for $5.99, and iris bulbs, sold individually for $2.99.

There were also paperwhite narcissus bulbs at 99 cents each. Gullas said you might set these in a glass with sand or rocks and have something really pretty you can bring in the house.

There were also tulips at $6.98 for eight, hyacinths at $5.99 for four, and crocus at $5.99 for 15.

She emphasized what Cudmore had said about “tricking” bulbs. “Put them in the refrigerator, away from fruits and vegetables, especially apples,” she said. “Mark your calendar, and in six to nine weeks go out and plant them in the ground. They will flower in the spring.”

Fall is planting time for chrysanthemums, pansies, violas, snapdragons and primroses, Cudmore said.

“My garden is never more colorful than at pansy time. Majestic giant pansies with bold, contrasting colors, warm oranges and yellows, and rich burgundy blends bloom all winter and spring,” Cudmore said.

Green Thumb has racks of blooming mums, with a very colorful selection of 5-inch pots for $1.59 each.

“Mums will bloom for a couple months easily,” Gullas said. “They are perennials, and come back year after year.”
Gullas noted mums will eventually grow fairly large, at about 1.5 feet tall and wide. “Mine prefer afternoon shade,” she added.

There were snapdragons blooming in various colors, available in six packs for $2.99.

Gullas said these prefer full sun and love cold weather. “They are annuals but will bloom through winter,” she said. And you can dead-head the first blooms when they are finished to get a secondary bloom. She said some varieties of snapdragons she sells will grow to 6 to 8 inches tall, and others as tall as two feet.

Six packs of pansies were available for $2.47, in solid colors and those with “faces.” Gullas said pansies prefer full sun, and will grow to about 8 inches wide. “Pansies can actually sit with snow on them and survive,” she said.

Stocks were also available, at $2.99 for a six pack. Gullas noted their spicy smell and said they prefer full sun and grow to 18 inches tall.

“We’re in transition now,” she said, “from summer flowers to winter crops. But occasionally we get those hot Santa Ana days.”

She said  that, on those days, you might provide some shade for your flowers, even if it’s only from a garden chair. “But be sure to water on hot days,” she said.

Cudmore: Fall is the best time to plant native an drought-tolerant plants — when not as much water is required to get them going.

Keep in mind that plants use less water in cooler weather, so water them less often, especially citrus trees. Reduce watering on plants such as lilacs and wisteria for better spring blooms.

When plants go dormant and lose their leaves, only water occasionally to prevent roots from drying out.

The plant can’t use water when it doesn’t have leaves.

General fall care
Gullas: Fruit trees might need an end of summer pruning to correct limb position, remove damaged branches or to shorten them.

“Some people take the central leader out, which makes the tree grow outward, making fruit much easier to harvest,” Gullas said.

With other plants, Gullas said it is time to “dead-head, trim back, fill in and replace.”

This will get things ready for a “long blast of color.”

You might want to give any of your plants a light application of organic fertilizer, as it is still warm enough for that to be effective.

“We might be back to the 90s next week,” she said. “But plants don’t require heavy feeding at this time.”

She pointed out a variety of organic fertilizer available at Green Thumb and, specifically, E.B. Stone Starter Fertilizer for your new plants.

“Put it right in the hole. The plant sits on top of it and it helps the plant root-in,” she said.

Gullas said to keep your eye on the weather, but that now is the time to adjust your sprinklers and drip lines to reduce the application of water.

This is especially true for citrus trees.

“Apples, peaches, plums and apricots go into dormancy, usually by December,” she said.

And when the leaves drop the trees can’t use the water and can’t shed it off.

Green Thumb International is located at 23734 Newhall Ave., Newhall, 91321. The phone number is (661) 259-1072. Visit


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