California Natives: Fall Is Planting Season
Fall Is Planting Season
By Deborah Burstyn
Forget spring when it comes to planting in your garden. Ignore all those enticing color-splotched catalogs and big box store flyers about flats, seeds and flowers that arrive each spring. That may all be well and fine for other parts of the country. But this is California. The time to plant is fall. And it’s almost here.
Our long dry months of scorching heat are nearly over. Gentler temperatures and replenishing rains are on their way to moisten the earth and welcome new plants. October to early November are the best months to plant, and California native plants are the most foolproof. “Our local plants are adapted to the weather cycle,” explains Lesley Hunt, a Walnut Creek resident who is a member of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. “Here winter is the growing season when plants put down their roots,” she says. “So what happens in the summer when everything gets dry again? Those roots are now long enough to reach the water table. That means you can water less.”
California natives are so well acclimated to our local growing conditions that you can skip the fertilizer and pesticides too. “It’s easy to look like a good gardener with natives. They are intended to grow here,” says Hunt. And you’re creating an inviting space for local birds and butterflies. Although California natives get the vote for most likely to succeed, fall is also the best time to plant other good drought-tolerant candidates from the Mediterranean, Mexico and South Africa.
TIPS FROM HUNT:
Plant California fuchsia also known as Epilobium. Hummingbirds love it. It’s super drought tolerant with red flowers that bloom from July to October. And it can take the heat.
Don’t water established natives in the winter and only once a month in summer.
Baby new plants the first year by watering every two weeks in hot weather and once a month in winter.
Just say no to fertilizers and pesticides.
Avoid overhead watering. California natives don’t like it.
Use drip irrigation. Hunt recommends Netafim, available at Concord’s Water Savers Inc.