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Plan ahead for winter garden

Visit gardens for ideas, prep your soil and watch your winter yard flourish

Thinking daily about your garden really helps in planning for this coming season. I like to visit nurseries, public gardens, arboretum's and private gardens. It makes putting together a plant list and a list of chores much easier.

In this column, I'm going to give several lists of plants to consider. You can look them up in your garden book and online.

Now's the time to shop for and plant winter vegetables like kale, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, cauliflower, broccoli and onions.

Bulbs to plant are daffodils, tulips, crocus, Muscari, iris, snowdrops, anemone, ranunculus, lily and starflower.

Herbs to plant are sage, rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, fennel, lemon balm, chives, dill, tarragon, lemongrass, coriander, chamomile and watercress.

If you want fall color, plant aster, chrysanthemum, coreopsis, day lily, gillardia, gaura, Japanese anemone, lavatera, nemesia, rudbeckia, Russian sage, culinary sage and verbena.

If you need ideas, visit a community garden near you. My favorite at the moment is the Sunnyvale Community Garden at Mathilda Avenue and El Camino Real behind the library. It's one of the best community gardens I've ever seen. Mature trees include kiwi, pomegranate, citrus and avocado and all have fruit.

This is also a good time to replant containers, planting boxes, and hanging baskets. Start by refreshing or replacing all the soil. Plant with winter vegetables and flowers including those listed above for a good show this fall.

Besides planting, this is the time for cleanup and soil preparation, so get out there and get to work adding soil amendments, fertilizer and mulch as well as lawn renovation including de-thatching, plugging, reseeding and top dressing.

If you have artificial turf, wash it, scrub it, vacuum it or whatever you do. If you wait until it rains it will percolate all that hair and dust down into the bedding material.

Think about decorating for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Plan plantings, lights and decorations including a fun element or two to celebrate both holidays at the same time. I particularly like scarecrows. You could even have a block scarecrow competition.

This is a good time to share food with others. Cook up what you harvested. Make squash soup and stuffed zucchini to compliment what ever goes on the grill. Be sure to share treasures from your vegetable garden, especially homegrown tomatoes.

Jack McKinnon is a Garden Coach. He can be reached at 650-455-0687. Email to or check out the website

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