- Count backwards from your frost date
Because our location in sunny California has no true “frost date” we have a bit more flexibility in planting. However, in order to get the most out of your fall garden most seeds should be planted by the end of July. For vegetables, start seeds in flats where they can easily be kept moist before transferring seedlings to the ground. Flowering plants can be grown the same way or bought and planted from nurseries later in the season.
- Balance soil pH
The right plants in your fall garden can help you manage soil fertility as well as control weed growth. Leafy greens such as arugula and turnips benefit your garden in three ways: they are a super nutritious - and delicious - food source, their large leaves shade out weeds, and their nutrients are cycled back into the soil during the winter. These same leafy greens can also be used to soak up any excess nitrogen in the soil.
- Pick your best plants
California gardeners have a wide variety of choices when it comes to planting a fall garden. If you’re planning on growing vegetables, leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, mustard greens, and endive thrive in cooler weather. However, these plants need to be constantly moist, meaning watering them during drought conditions can be a concern. For flower gardens, pansies, English daisies, and calendula are popular choices. Calendula plants are particularly well-suited for California winters as they bloom from fall until spring and are long-lasting when cut and put in vases.
- Mix annuals and perennials
To get the most out of your fall flower garden, choose a mix of annual and perennials. In our warm climate, mums can return year after year. These plants work well as they begin blooming in late summer, adding color to your garden in the awkward interim between summer and fall blooms. Chrysanthemums are another popular choice; this flower has more varietals of colors and shapes than any other flowering plant. The red, pink, and white blooms of autumn sage can also last from the fall until spring; these vibrant flowers are especially known for attracting hummingbirds.