In the calendar we have 12 months, often grouped into spring, summer, fall, and winter. These seasons can be based on day length, nighttime temperatures, a combination of weather factors, or just random dates.
In the Antelope Valley we can add many new seasons to the gardening calendar. Most places have spring, summer, autumn and winter, and we also have one to several false springs and one to several false waterfalls.
In early spring, our biggest problem is that by March, the weather looks like spring with fruit tree blossoms and warm days. However, we still have a good chance of a freeze until mid-April.
Some years, by mid-February, the weather is warm, and the gardening bug hits us. But then the cold snap seems to come and we go back to winter. Often times, we don’t really know if we have a false spring or just a spring until several weeks have passed.
In the fall, the cold weather begins in mid-October and our first freeze is usually the first week of November but can be delayed until mid-December. I consider it winter after the first freeze. I still consider it fall when nighttime temperatures are in the mid to upper 40s.
Most plants that go dormant or lose their leaves in the winter begin to go dormant when the average nighttime temperature reaches 50 degrees for several nights in a row, which is early to mid-October. This means that between now and October, I would typically classify it as a false fall. If you’re not confused, I am. I guess I say plan for the worst and hope for the best.
In general, we have spring and fall as the two biggest gardening seasons, spring and fall. Summer is mainly about weeding, watering and pest control. Winter is just about keeping our plants warm and lively.
Our gardening goals in the fall are to prepare for winter. We may have begun fall, but more likely false fall is the preparation for fall, one of the great gardening times of the year.
Now is a good time of year to give shade, ornamental and fruit trees a good fertilization and good deep watering. By October, we need to reduce the water to help the trees go dormant. The only exception is pines, which need deep watering in October.
It is also a good time to plant or replant bearded iris. If your beds are full and the plants aren’t blooming well, it’s time to freshen up your irises.
First dig up the iris clumps and wash the soil. I take a bucket of water and immerse the block several times to loosen the soil. Irises grow from thick underground stems called rhizomes. Cut iris clumps where they naturally branch. Remove the old, leafless parts and save the healthy, younger roots.
Now cut the leaves back to about 4 to 6 inches. Replant the newly divided iris with the rootstock facing down and the rhizomes just below the soil. Water the plants and replace any soil washed away by the roots.
Bearded iris is a good choice for bulb-like flowering plants in the Antelope Valley. Most bulb plants, such as tulips and daffodils, prefer more acidic soil. Bearded iris is a great choice for the Antelope Valley because it prefers our sandy, alkaline soil. Bearded irises tolerate heat and wind better than other bulbs. Less care, less water, fewer problems with gorgeous flowers – how do you beat bearded iris?
Roses love late summer and fall. Be sure to remove the old flowers from your flowers which is also known as deadheading. You can also fertilize your roses now. Good, deep watering will help push your roses out of summer doldrums and into a great blooming cycle in the fall. Roses often bloom in December.
Late summer should see some of your summer vegetables reviving and doing better after the summer heat is over. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash should begin flowering and fruiting best when nighttime temperatures reach the 60s and daytime temperatures reach the 90s. Although they are summer vegetables, most do not flower well or pollinate if temperatures exceed 90 degrees.
Late Summer Pest Control Again similar to our false spring, aphids can become a problem again when plants begin to grow again. Mildew on roses that was not a problem during the summer may become a problem again as nighttime temperatures drop. If you are trying to remove Bermuda grass, this is your last chance; Once temperatures cool, Bermuda grass stops growing and herbicides no longer work.
Fall is the best time to plant meadows, landscape plants, winter flowers (pansies, primroses and stock) and winter vegetables (leafy vegetables such as lettuce, root crops, broccoli and cauliflower to name a few). This means that between now and true fall, you need to plan your garden and prepare for winter.