Autumn Garden Chores

It’s September and time to start thinking about autumn in Southern California.  The weather doesn’t really agree with that theory, but it’s inevitable – autumn is just around the corner.  Here’s a quick reminder of a few chores to take care of around the garden.

Charles M. Schulz /
snoopy in autumn


It’s just about time to pull out old veggie plants and spent annuals. I’m sad to see them go, but a clear veggie patch really does look nicer than a bunch of mostly dead plants that probably won’t produce any quality vegetables.  Trim branches that are too close to power lines or the house.  Keep in mind that some bushes (like ficus) will grow more if you prune them at the wrong time.  Many flowers are still blooming, so you can hold off trimming back roses and other bushes.

Soak trees, bushes, and perennials to encourage deep roots.  If you’re able to tell when the wind is about to pick up, soak them before. They’ll probably need it after, too.  It seemed like it was windy more often than not last year.

If you’re close to the grassy hills, make sure you clear dead bushes, branches and trees that are within 30′ of your home.  Cut annual grass to no higher than 4″.  To learn more about fire prevention, visit


Batten down the hatches, the winds are coming!  With any luck, we’ll have a good deal of rain in a few months, so you may as well get ready for that, too. One weather report claims we can expect an “ark storm” – meaning a bad winter that only comes around every 150 years. Another weather report claims that we’ll have a bad El Nino winter, but they don’t know if any of it will hit the US.  Either way, put away anything light that could be blown away to Oz.  Also put away anything you don’t want soaked, in case it does rain. If we have another mild and dry winter, you can enjoy a nice clean yard because you were prepared for the worst. Remember to take down your wind chimes, too. (I always forget till they wake me up at 2am)


Although we should keep our tools clean and well maintained throughout the year, but how many of us actually do it?  Since there isn’t a lot of gardening to tend to, now is a good time to clean and sharpen tools, and clean up lawn equipment and such.  Be sure to store everything out of the rain.


If you haven’t already started, plant your next crop of seeds. There’s still time to grow and harvest another crop of cucumbers, chard, basil, etc.  Lettuce is a wonderful winter crop for us, so plant away!

It reached 102° at CSUN yesterday and today wasn’t much cooler.  Around about the time you start thinking it’s time to turn on the heater in the house, it’s also time to wrap your greenhouse.  There’s no need to remove the shade cloth unless it’s ready to be replaced anyway.  Be sure to add 1”x2” boards at strategic points over the plastic to keep the wind from ripping it off in the middle of the night. (can you tell we tend to forget potentially noisy items till it’s the middle of the night?)


If you have any pets that spend the majority of their time outside, look around their area with fresh eyes – do they need new blankets in their house, a new food or water dish? Is their house out of the wind? Will they stay dry if it rains?  What if it rains heavy?  If you have free-range chickens, do they have a place to go to get out of the wind, rain, and mud?  Will water get into their house or their feed?

We used to wrap the aviary and rabbit cages in plastic when the temperature dropped (leaving a window for air flow). It wasn’t pretty to look at, but the finches and bunnies were much happier and that made us happy.

Local hummingbirds do not migrate, and neither do many of our wild birds.  If you feed in the summer, please remember to feed in the winter.  Keep birdbaths full and clean, and move feeders to an area that won’t be affected by wind or rain. It’s nice to keep planter dishes on the ground for lizards and other small critters that might wander into your yard.


It’s surprising how little water mosquitoes need in order to develop, and they do not need warm weather to thrive.  Last January, I found mosquito larvae in a cup that had blown into the yard and then collected a bit of water from the sprinklers.  Keep a constant look out for anything that can hold water. (This should be a year-round activity.)  Rinse out birdbaths and water bowls every few days, too.

Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing autumn!

Happy Gardening!


An Hour to Garden


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