September and October are our busiest planting months. Start making your wish lists now and begin the fall planting season by first visiting local demonstrations gardens including the Fresno County Master Gardeners Garden of the Sun in southeast Fresno and the Clovis Botanical Garden.
Both beautiful gardens are at their best in fall and they showcase plants that are suitable for our planting zones including many heat- and drought-tolerant varieties, shade plants, ground covers and lawn grasses such as UC verde buffalo grass. Plants are labeled with varietal names and docents are usually available to answer questions.
Make a visit a little later in October to the Shinzen Friendship Garden (a gem of a garden that is not well-enough known) in Woodward Park to see fall leaf color on the many mature cultivars of Japanese maples.
After visiting the gardens, you should have specific varietal names on your wish list. Now it’s time to visit garden centers and local nurseries to check availability of container plants, transplants and seeds of your favorite plants. Good garden centers and nurseries label their plants with plenty of important information including water needs, sun/shade requirements, size at maturity, fragrance, bloom time or ripening time, petal count (on rose labels), disease and pest resistance. Some nurseries will special order plants for you, especially if you’re ordering several trees and bushes or several flats of flowers. It usually takes at least two weeks for special orders to arrive.
Also check out fall-blooming azaleas, deciduous trees and container roses while you’re at the nursery. Prices for trees and roses are a little higher in fall than in mid-winter’s bare root season, but you’ll be able to match or select fall leaf color on trees and color and size on azaleas as well as smell the roses’ fragrances.
Hot spells in September and early October aren’t as extreme as in mid-summer, but new seedlings and transplants that do best in cooler temperatures really suffer in fall heat. Pansies become stunted, radishes turn bitter and woody, and broccoli bolts set flowers and go to seed). Monitor the weather report and wait patiently until temperatures drop into the 80s during the day and the low 60s or high 50s overnight to plant pansies, root vegetables and cole crops or brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, etc). Look for seeds and transplants of leafy greens including spinach, arugula and leaf lettuces that are labeled heat tolerant or “slow to bolt.” They can be planted earlier than other cool-season vegetables.
Seeds of sweet peas and peas should be planted in late September so that the seedlings are about 6 inches high when the first frost arrives in mid-November. Broccoli, chard and Brussels sprouts, sweet peas and peas tolerate cold temperatures well and will bloom or be ready to eat early next spring when temperatures just begin to warm again.
Send Elinor Teague plant questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fresno-area community gardens
Fresno County Master Gardeners Garden of the Sun
Address: 1750 N. Winery Ave., Fresno
Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. in September and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in October
free admission, donations accepted
Clovis Botanical Garden
Address: 945 N. Clovis Ave.
Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
free admission, donations accepted
Shinzen Friendship Garden
Address: Woodward Park, Fresno
Hours: September weekdays 4 to 7 p.m., weekends and Labor Day 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October weekends and holidays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
check website for variety of admission costs