Fall beats spring for top gardening season!

Sunday Signal

By Jane Gates

Signal Staff Writer

Autumn has arrived. That means outdoor gardening conditions will become more comfortable as the weather offers us cooler nights and more relief from heat.

Autumn has always been the planting season for native flowers, trees and woody shrubs. But with summer’s burning, triple-digit heat shortening what used to be the ideal planting season of spring, fall is now becoming the best season for gardening projects.

Cooler temperatures allow plants to establish root systems over the winter months and whatever rain we have will be oxygenated and will help new plantings thrive better than artificial irrigation.

So … the autumn planting spree begins now! And here are just a handful of suggestions to help this best season for gardening get off to a good start.

Seed wildflowers

If you have hillsides that need a quick fix or some filling-in while drought-tolerant perennials establish themselves, consider seeding with easy-to-grow wildflowers.

Try California Poppies, yellow and white “Tidy Tips,” the brilliant blue Phacelia, Godetia in crisp pinks and whites, or “Baby Blue Eyes.”

If we get rain, these seeds will cover your open areas with cheerful flowers come early spring and they’ll help stave off erosion on hillsides while slower-growing perennials become established. 

Sprinkle seeds just before rain is predicted and hope raindrops plant them before the hungry wildlife gobbles them up. Seeding is inexpensive, easy and can fill empty spaces with a riot of color from winter’s end until the heat of summer comes.

Showy flowers

Gardens can benefit from planting bulbs, rhizomes and corms. They are simple to plant and ready to go.

In the right conditions, they’ll multiply underground to give you bigger flower clumps each year.

Always plant bulbs in groups so they will form a natural-looking cluster. When clusters become too big, divide them up into other areas or give away extras to friends and neighbors.

Edible bulbs like onions and garlic should be dug when the foliage starts to die back, and the bulbs should be allowed to dry off for a few days before storing in a cool, dry area.

Now is also a good time to plant garlic and onion starter bulbs called “sets.” Search out flowering bulbs like Chasmanthe, Dichelostemma and Brodiaea that grow well in Santa Clarita with little added water. These are less toothsome to the gophers than other bulbs and corms. Gladioli, Watsonias and Freesias produce great flowers for cutting, but require more water. Lilies do best with a little shade.

Go native, drought-tolerant

Now is the best time to fill your landscape with drought-tolerant plants and California natives — from now through April.

There are some splendidly showy flowers in the Buckwheat, Acacia and Salvia families that survive with very little extra water once they have lived through a well-watered summer or two. Hopseed Bush (Dodonaea) is a large shrub or small tree with good drought tolerance and comes with green or deep red-purple foliage.

Coreopsis daisies display bright yellow flowers. The Desert Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla) has fluffy pink blooms. And Dymondia will turn a full sun area into a solid mat of green, punctuated with occasional yellow daisy flowers while growing less than an inch high.

All these garden plants have minimal water needs.

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