In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2006
Regional Report

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Heavy watering results in thick-walled peppers and strong plants that respond well to wintering over.

September's Garden Joys

September may just be my favorite gardening month. Soil and air temperatures are warm but not blisteringly hot (we had more than enough of that in June and July!). My taste buds are weary of summer produce (in winter it's hard to imagine tiring of fresh tomatoes!). I've started my summer pruning of fruit trees to bring their foliage down to 5 feet high so fall and spring growth will center at comfortable harvesting height. I've planted the last of my summer crops -- cucumbers and squash -- and the first winter crops -- beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, chives, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, green onions, short-day bulb onions (Vidalia, Maui, Texas Sweet, and Walla Walla), parsley (the flat-leaf type is more winter-hardy than the curly one), peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. This crossover time will produce a great variety of veggies for Thanksgiving and onward.

I'm pulling tomato plants with no more blossoms and will add manure, compost, and other amendments for new cold-season transplants. For a couple of years I trimmed back my tomatoes to their newly sprouted shoots and lower growth, added fertilizer, and was rewarded with new fruits ripening from Christmas through March. But I didn't like their texture or flavor -- too close to those store-bought, mushy, cardboard-tasting things -- so I don't bother anymore. Instead, I use the space, fertilizer, water, and my efforts for veggies more appropriate to the cold season.

Attempts at Overwintering
What has overwintered successfully are my favorite pimiento and bell peppers, so I'll trim them back, add amendments in case we again have no hard frosts, and hope they continue producing next year. I've done this for the last five years, and also transplanted new plants in April to see which produced the earliest and heaviest crop throughout the summer. Results have been a toss-up. Some years, all the plants produced blossoms and fruit at the same time and yielded the relatively same amount. Other years, the old plants produced sooner. From August through December, they all produce well.

So, I can't say that one way is more successful than another. Certainly, the pruning and laying down of manure and compost as mulch is less work since it doesn't involve digging up the old plants and digging in manure and compost, and then transplanting new seedlings. But there are always some old plants that die, and always new varieties I want to try. So my garden always has "something old and something new," and that's what the fun is all about!


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