UCSC plant sale kicks off fall gardening season

Plants for sale this way. (Photo by Martha Brown)

With a little work now, you can be harvesting vegetables for your Thanksgiving feast and through the winter. September's warm weather offers the perfect opportunity to extend the season of your vegetable and flower gardens, and to get landscape plants established before shorter days and cooler weather set in.

To keep your garden growing, visit the UCSC Farm & Garden's Fall Plant Sale, which will offer gardeners a rich and timely selection of organically raised vegetable seedlings, perennials, and California natives. Sponsored by the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, the sale takes place on Friday and Saturday, September 12 and 13. The sale will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, in the Barn Theater parking lot at the intersection of Bay and High Streets in Santa Cruz.

"Fall is a great time to plant fast-growing greens and other vegetable crops for late fall and winter harvest," says UCSC Garden manager Christof Bernau. This year's offerings include spinach, kale, lettuce and salad mixes, Asian greens, chard, collards, fennel, bunching onions, and leeks, along with broccoli and cabbage. Annual flowers available this year include sweet peas, bachelor buttons, statice, stock and mignonette, which can be planted in the fall for late winter and spring blooms.

The Farm & Garden's plant sale is one of the largest all-organic events of its kind in the Monterey Bay Area. All of the flower and vegetable starts were propagated using organic methods. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides were used in growing the plants from seed. None of the hardwood cuttings were given artificial growth hormones.

In addition to winter vegetables and culinary herbs, the sale will feature perennial flowers and shrubs. Some favorites from this fall's collection include Echinacea purpurea, or purple coneflower; Angelica stricta purpurea, a striking purple-tinged plant much loved by butterflies; the California native Ribes sanguineum glutinosum, a drought-tolerant shrub with long, showy pink flower clusters; and Phygelius capensis, or Cape fuchsia, a snapdragon family plant whose tubular flowers attract hummingbirds. Also available will be a great selection of lavenders and salvias, including Salvia leucophylla, a California native with light purple flowers.

Autumn is the best time to plant perennial shrubs, including California natives, according to Bernau. "Because the soil is still warm, transplants quickly establish strong roots that ensure their survival during the winter," Bernau said. Although they'll need some initial watering, winter rains will help fall-planted perennials establish deep roots, encouraging colorful blooms and reducing water dependence next spring.

The sale will benefit the UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship, a six-month training course in organic farming and gardening. Members of the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden receive a 10 percent discount on purchases; memberships will be available at the sale. For more information about the Fall Plant Sale, the Friends of the Farm & Garden, or the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, call (831) 459-3240, email jonitann@ucsc.edu, or visit casfs.ucsc.edu. The sale takes place rain or shine.