Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall into Fall

We are blessed here in the Bay Area with the most wonderful fall weather -- cool mornings and pleasant, mostly sunny days. Inviting weather for getting out in the garden. And while many gardeners are taking a well deserved rest from planting new plants, there's two areas of work that can be most rewarding right now. The first is winter prep, or more to the point spring prep. It's a good time to dig out a planting bed that you hadn't gotten around to amending. Add in compost or fir mulch to enrich and loosen the soil. Want something there until you plant it out in spring? Try a drought tolerant ground cover or a cover crop like fava beans or clover to fix nitrogen into the soil. Or add some seasonal color to these beds with primroses, cyclamen or pansies and violas. For already established beds, consider top dressing with fir mulch to add nutrients. This is also an excellent time to freshen up the bark mulch layer which may have been dissipated with traffic and the elements.
My other Fall tip? Try adding some South African bulbs to your collection of tulips, daffodils and crocus. Most S. African bulbs will bloom earlier than the classic spring bulbs, many of them in December and January. Many gardeners are familiar with sparaxis and babianas but may not have known they are native to South Africa. Add to this list lachenalias, commonly called Cape cowslip, the Iris family member moraea, the stunning and eerie ferraria and a number of gladiola species and winter gardeners have a whole palette to choose from. I have all of these in my garden and they've all poked their heads above ground. South African bulbs offer some of the most vivid colors and most interesting designs so are well worth the addition to your garden.

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