Reduce watering schedule

As the days become shorter and cooler, plant growth slows and gardens prepare for a much-deserved rest. With fewer daylight hours, water remains in the soil for a longer period of time, and less irrigation becomes necessary. Scale back the amount of time your irrigation system runs in the fall to avoid soggy conditions and mud. Some plants are particularly sensitive to overly wet soil, and root health may begin to decline if left standing in water for too long. Reducing your irrigation schedule will reduce your water bill and keep your garden looking good into the winter.

Check irrigation schedule, functionality and clean filter

Summer days are long and hot, which can make for water-stressed plants if not properly irrigated. Be sure to check the schedule on your irrigation system and adjust as necessary so plants stay hydrated but not over-watered. A “smart” controller with a localized weather sensor is a water-wise way to provide just enough irrigation to your garden while keeping your water bill to a minimum. Look out for clogged drip line emitters, and take a moment to remove the filter and clean off any accumulated debris. Filters should be cleaned twice each year (more often if water contains higher than normal particulate matter). Scrubbing the filter with an old toothbrush and rinsing works very well to remove dirt and algae that may interfere with water pressure in the irrigation lines. Spend a little time to take care of your irrigation system, and you will never have to worry about watering your plants.

Spray with dormant spray

Fungus can take up residence on your plants during the growing months, but you can combat it effectively during the winter. Be sure to clear fallen leaves from plants that are particularly sensitive to fungus, such as roses and fruit trees. This will help prevent the fungal spores from spreading to new growth in the spring. After all leaves have fallen from the plant and you have pruned, spray a combination of copper fungicide and horticultural oil to lightly (but thoroughly) coat the branches. Once the mixture has dried, it will guard your plants against harmful fungus and other pathogens.

Protect tender plants with cloth tarps

When outside temperatures drop, you’ll want to check your garden for plants that need to be protected from frost. Many plants, including citrus, succulents, and other tender perennials are susceptible to damage when temperatures drop below freezing. To avoid dieback, prop frost blankets up on stakes or tomato cages around sensitive plants, making sure not to weigh them down. This will allow the plants to breathe even while covered, and keep branches from breaking under the weight of the blanket. Avoid using burlap or plastic tarps for this job, as they will not keep plants as warm as a frost blanket. If all you have are old sheets, use several layers on each plant to provide enough coverage. Frosts are few and far between during our coastal winters, but when they do come, your plants will thank you for taking the time to cover them!

Save your banana peels!

As our flower- and fruit- producing plants start working, they appreciate extra nutrients to help them along. After eating a banana, save the peels. Chop them up and place them around the base of roses, citrus and other fruiting and flowering plants. They will quickly disintegrate and add potassium to the root area helping to produce beautiful flowers and tasty fruit.

Protect your plants against aphids

Aphids moving in on your territory? Aphids are a common and unwanted visitor this time of year, especially on roses. Luckily, the Bay Area is also home to Syrphid flies which are natural enemies of the aphid. The Syrphid fly is a stingless fly with black and yellow bands and is often confused with honey bees. They play an important role in pollination as adults, but in their larval state they are hungry for aphids. A single Syrphid larva can eat hundreds of aphids per month. Let the Syrphid larvae do the heavy lifting and dispose of your aphid problem. If you want to take a more active role, merely spray the aphids off with water or gently run your fingers along the stems to squish them. There's no need for harsh chemical pesticides.

The best time to water your outdoor garden

As a general rule, the best time to water an outdoor garden is in the morning before the heat of the day. This allows for maximum absorption into the soil and the minimum evaporation or waste. It's important not to over-water or water late in the evening as this can lead to rot and fungal infections.