10 Gardening Activities for September in Southern California
Here are a few garden reminders, inspiring ideas, and maintenance suggestions for this month.
1. Shop for Bulbs, Corms & Tubers
Though you won’t be planting bulbs in Southern California until late-October through mid-December, it’s a good time to shop for and buy bulbs. If you wait until December, you may have trouble finding quality bulbs in stores and many of the best varieties sold online may be picked over or sold out. A number of bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, muscari, and some daffodils require a chilling period to perform at their best. If you live in a warm climate that doesn’t get cool weather, then consider buying pre-cooled bulbs (plant them as soon as possible to preserve the chill effect). Another option is to buy bulbs that perform well in warm climates.
2. Cut Back Fig Trees
Fig trees can be cut back after the last crop harvest. Figs will not continue to ripen after they are picked, so wait to harvest until they are fully ripe. You’ll know they’re ripe when the fig starts drooping down instead of growing perpendicular to the branch it’s growing on. The fig should also be soft. Some figs that are ripe may start to split at the top. To harvest, use clippers to cut off the fig at the branch and be sure not to rip the fleshy part of the fig (this will cause it to go bad faster). If you don’t have a fig tree, try planting Brown Turkey or Black Mission.
3. Care for Your Avocado Trees
Avocados may drop more leaves than usual this month; but don’t worry, this is normal. Continue your deep-watering schedule to provide ample water, but make sure the soil doesn’t get soggy. Mulch the root zone of avocado trees or leave leaf litter to decompose. Mulch and leaves help keep the roots cool, which avocado trees prefer. Avocados won’t ripen on the tree, so pick them when they are the right size (size at maturity depends on the variety) and let them ripen indoors.
4. Continue Watering Flowering Shrubs Well
In Southern California, the heat doesn’t stop when the calendar says summer is over. As long as it’s hot, keep watering flowering shrubs such as camellias, lilacs, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and others. If plant roots dry out too much, the next flowering season will be affected. It also helps to top dress shrubs with a layer of compost and mulch to keep roots cool.
5. Prepare for Fall Planting
The ideal time to plant in Southern California is in fall when rain is expected. This may not happen until October or even November, but you can prepare for planting now. Cover planting beds or areas you want to refresh with a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost from a local garden center or some you've made yourself. Instead of digging the compost into beds, use a broad fork to loosen and aerate the soil. This will maintain the integrity of the soil and also allow for better water drainage as well as root penetration.
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6. Visit the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden
As you plan your garden, consider using more native plants. You can see many California natives growing in the Theodore Payne Foundation Native Plant Garden located in Sun Valley, California (near Burbank). The 22-acre garden is filled with native plants. There’s also a bookstore, hiking trails, and a native plant nursery. The garden is open Thursdays through Saturdays until October 31. Then it’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays from November 1 through June 30. The hours of operation are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
7. Transplant Strawberries
By mid-September you can transplant starts of most varieties of strawberries (this can also be done in the spring around March or April). Strawberries are a great crop for both kitchen gardens and container gardens. When planting be sure to get the depth correct—don’t bury the crown of the plant. If you already have a berry patch, consider lifting your healthiest plant and replanting it in another area of your garden to expand your production. Allow runners to spread if you have the space. Try an ever-bearing variety such as Berried Treasure® Red, or others from Burpee.
8. Plant Blackberries
Blackberries are a wonderfully delicious fruit that are easily, though sometimes painfully, grown in home gardens. Dealing with thorns when cutting back canes requires a certain toughness, though thornless blackberry varieties are being introduced. Planting blackberries can start in mid-September and continue well into October. Order blackberries online from retailers such as Burpee or visit your local nursery. Many blackberries need support so build a trellis using u posts and wire. Tie canes as they grow using plant ribbon.
9. Start Sweet Pea Seeds
Sweet peas are one of the most beautiful, fragrant, and easy-to-grow flowers. Plant sweet pea seeds in a flat in the fall (learn how to plant sweet peas in this video). In areas with mild winters, transplant seedlings into the garden in October or November. Be sure you plant seedlings in well-draining and fertile soil. Amend the soil with compost and organic material. Renee's Garden has a wide selections of sweet pea seeds.
10. Dine at The LINE LA’s Openaire Restaurant
It’s a cool experience to dine inside a greenhouse. If you’re in Los Angeles, make your way to The LINE LA to try it out yourself. Stop in for a specialty cocktail, light food, and stunning atmosphere.
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