By Rebecca Jepsen
Clean garden beds in preparation for winter. Many insects and diseases overwinter in fallen debris. Prune diseased leaves from roses, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas. Leave leaf litter under oaks, pine and junipers; the leaf duff helps protect the roots.
Add a mulch layer to garden beds to provided needed nutrients for next year's crops. However, don't practice wall-to-wall mulching -- it's important to leave areas of exposed native soil for ground-nesting bees.
Trim perennials such as salvias, penstemons, yarrow and buddleia (butterfly bush) to half to one-third their existing size to stimulate healthy new growth in the spring.
Harvest persimmons by cutting versus pulling the fruit off to avoid damaging the tree. Pick Fuyu persimmons when they are firm and crisp; wait to harvest the Hachiya variety until the fruit is soft. A persimmon tree grows to about 25 feet tall and wide, making it a nicely contained choice for a landscape tree.
Chill tulip bulbs now in order to plant before the first frost. Tulip bulbs need approximately six to eight weeks of chilling time before planting (place them in the refrigerator, not the freezer). And avoid storing your bulbs near apples. Apples emit ethylene gas, which can cause the bulbs to sprout prematurely.
Sow native wildflowers. Poppies, clarkias, lupines and blue-eyed Marys are easy to start from seed. Planting just before the winter rains start will prevent the need for manual watering.
Plan your fall planting to replace tired annuals, perennials and shrubs.
Planting before the winter rains begin will help reduce the amount of supplemental water you will need to add to get the plants established. Look for plants that are native to the Bay Area or from similar climate zones: Australia, South Africa, Chile and the Mediterranean.
What to plant now
Transplants: arugula, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, chives, fava beans, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, peas, potatoes, spinach, Swiss chard.
Seeds: arugula, fava beans, garlic, kale, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes, spinach.
Want to learn to grow food year-round? Check the Master Gardeners' website, www.mastergardeners.org, for a list of cool-season gardening classes. Have a question for Rebecca Jepsen and the other Master Gardeners? Call 408-282-3105 on weekday mornings.