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Now is the best time to plant California native trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses to start new or fill in some empty garden spots. Some of our favorites include: manzanita (arctostaphylos), California lilac (ceanothus), flowering currants (ribes), sages (salvias), lupines (lupinus) and monkey flower (mimulus). Soon after, comes late fall/early winter bare root planting time for deciduous trees, shrubs and vines, fruit and nuts, grapes and roses.

This is also the perfect time to sow seeds for native meadow and spring blooming flowers like California poppies, farewell to spring, Chinese houses, tidy tips, baby blue eyes, and five spot; and grasses such as Pacific reed grass, California melic grass, California fescue and basket deer grass; as well as plant spring blooming bulbs like Ithuriel’s spears, lilies, tulips and daffodils. 

If you are looking for a little more winter flower color, plant some cool season annuals like calendula, chrysanthemums, cyclamen, Iceland poppies, nemesia, pansies, snapdragons, stock and viola in front of windows, along borders or in pots.

All new plants need regular watering to get established. By planting in the fall, we can take advantage of our winter rains, but you may need to use your irrigation system or water by hand if the rains are late or light this winter. Be sure not to overwater either, as the roots won’t take up moisture as quickly during the shorter and cooler days.

vineyard in fall

Fall is Time to Clean-Up before Winter

We are fortunate to still have nice days to be outdoors. While the days are still warm and the air is clean, doing a little yardwork now can help make the fall garden neater and healthier.  Here are some general tasks:

  • raking up excessive dead leaves and blossoms – add them to your compost pile or green waste
  • pruning deciduous trees and shrubs –  hand prune for optimal and natural plant shape
  • crown thinning of large mature trees to remove dead branches, reduce wind load as well as keep space from built structure and gutters
  • composting leaves, spent summer vegetables, and weeds
  • refreshing organic mulch to preserve moisture

For a complete list of tasks, see the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County’s Fall Checklist.

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