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Fall Gardening Tips For San Diego

October 28, 2013 1:14 p.m.


Nan Sterman, garden designer, author, botanist, and host of the KPBS television series "A Growing Passion,"

Related Story: Fall Gardening Tips For San Diego


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What's the best thing to do on the next beautiful fall day? Well, according to my guest you should get out in the garden. It is a pleasure to welcome Nan Sterman, gardener, botanist, author and host of the KPBS TV show a growing passion and it is so good to see you.

NAN STERMAN: It's really nice to see you Maureen. Thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now we may be able to squeeze in a call or two for Nan Sterman so if you have your calls questions about gardening give us a call at 1-888-895-5727. Just a quick question to start things off about today's weather, how badly do gardens around San Diego need this sort of mild weather we are having today?

NAN STERMAN: You mean the rain? We are having a little bit of rain the really needed because we are at the end of the long dry season and you know we had really really low rainfall this year, really really low rain. So my own garden which is a very low-water garden looks terrible I know it's a cycle I know with the rainfall it's all going to be renewed. In a way, this is our spring. When the heat starts to ease and we start to get the moisture, plants come alive. So, this is really important. I don't think we are going to get much, but even humid air changes everything. So, yeah this is what we've been waiting for, we've been holding our breath waiting for this.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know you mentioned is a sort of like our spring, so why is fall a good time for planting, you kind of answered it.

NAN STERMAN: You know it is a perfect time because the soil is still warm so when you put new plants in the ground, the roots get going right away so the soil they sit there and wait, please format, but the soil is warm, but the air now, there is humidity in the air and it's a little bit cooler suppliants do not get stressed. Water, the most important thing when it comes to plants making the transition when you plant a plant is adapting to the new location, becoming established and what that really means is the plant is able to spread its roots so that brings the water into the plant as quickly as order goes out of the atmosphere, so when the air is really dry you know how your skin gets dry and your lips get dry the same thing happens to beliefs and that's why when it's hot and you walk outside sometimes you see a plan to beliefs are totally wilted but the next morning you go out and the leaves are perked up and you didn't water it's a matter of the roots pulling up catching the water about this island bumping into the cells of the plant. So, it is the difference between the amount of moisture in the soil in the amount of moisture in the air and all of that is to say that when there is more humidity in the air if it's cooler and not so stressful on the plants, they can sort of adjust. And establish much more easily. So we get an extra season. They really become established now and the time by the time spring if it's like they've already been in the ground for year but if you plan to lay down you're going through the establishment when it's getting hot, that's when you lose points.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Again the number for Nan Stermam, 1-888-895-5727 and you know Nan, I think it is good to remind people how unique San Diego's climate is when it comes to planting and seasons. Tell us again, because we are one of only what, five areas in the world with this climate?

NAN STERMAN: We have a Mediterranean climate not just San Diego basically all of coastal California but it changes to the Northeast when you get too far north of San Francisco you know the Bay Area pretty much Santa Rosa is probably as far as it goes but the Mediterranean climate is a really unique climate you're right there only five regions of the world with this climate and what it is is a climate where summertime for work and there is no refile. You know, most parts of the world you get rainfall when there is war, so so that kind of pattern supports plants that have big leads. Well, we don't have that. When it is hot it is dry and our rainfall comes when it is mild in the winter so in order to survive the hot, dry summer that lack of precipitation, plants tend to evolve very small leaves, or needles, or totally for waxy leaves or succulent. So strategies for conserving water. That is why the soils are solely because we don't have a big biomass of leaves that fall to the ground and accumulate and make the rich beautiful so. Our soil is pretty, people say it is bad. It is bad if you're trying to grow plants that come from the other climates but if you're trying to grow plants from our kinds of Mediterranean climates it's fine.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what would you recommend that people plan this time of year?

NAN STERMAN: There's all kinds of things that people can plant at this time. This is the perfect time to plan anything what he especially if it's a California native for native to Australia, the southern part of Australia, another part of, and if climate, the southwestern coast of Australia, the southern tip of South Africa, another Mediterranean climate. The Mediterranean region, and the west coast of Chile. There aren't as many plants in our plant palette from Chile as there are from the other parts of the world. Process plants, if you want to plant and herb garden right now, lavender, oregano, they, Rosemary, thyme, they are all from the Mediterranean, a perfect time to plant those. If you want to plant flowering shrubs like Brasilia from Australia, the (inaudible) from South Africa really exotic. The California lilacs, and Manzanita. I just spent several days we've been shooting an episode on chaparral so I've been immersed in Manzanita and the Live Oak and Coast Live Oak, and the scrub oak. And the Encinitas and the Laurel sumac and lemonade berry and all those wonderful native plants that we have someone just asked me about peonies, can you grow peonies in California? The peonies that most people think of we cannot grow the Middle East in Southern California but we do have California peonies and they are just spreading out from the summer sleep.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Somebody people now do have gardens that have plants that are native to the area or native to the climate. I think that it's a revelation for some people who have thought oh, gee, I just have to plant a lot of cactus in the front.

NAN STERMAN: What is really a revelation are people who want to plant palms sand tropicals and lawns. That thankfully is starting to go away. Starting to go away.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've just been told that I've not been able to see my calls, so maybe if somebody tells you which line we can go take a call? Okay, maybe not.

NAN STERMAN: It's all right they can try again.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So okay what about the edible garden, you told us about herbs. What else edible can we put the vegetable garden this time of year?

NAN STERMAN: The vegetable gardens are completely different climate because the vegetable garden is an artificial and firemen and you do want to have really rich soil and you want to irrigate and make sure that you put all your energy, the focus of your resources so right now is a great time to plan things like peas and beans and anything in the cabbage family, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, what is the stuff, romanesco, the beautiful light, very slender broccoli that's just delicious. Carrots, any, the root crops, carrots, radishes, beats, chard, any of the greens, lettuces, all those things that is what you want to play now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the line. Karen is calling from Encinitas. Hi, Karen.

NEW SPEAKER: I was calling about seed planting. On the seed pack it says 7 to 10 days to germinate and 80 days to harvest, does that mean days to harvest are 80, or 87 to 90?

NAN STERMAN: None of the above. What are you trying to grow, Karen?

NEW SPEAKER: Vegetables I just put in several of the crops that you mentioned.

NAN STERMAN: So here's the funny thing, the days to germinate are really important to pay attention to because that gives you an idea if your seized on Germany within a day or two of the maximum it means that the seats were bad and you should start again. Once the seeds are bad you just toss the envelope of seats even though you can keep them for several years and actually the germination will be okay but the days to harvest, here's the weird thing the days to harvest really depends on what your climate is so say you are planting to two kinds of broccoli and one says 55 days to harvest in the other so 75 days to our visits really not going to be 55 or 75 but the 55 will ripen first you write [inaudible] the 55 first and 75 comes later it has to do with where the seeds were tested and you don't know where the seeds were tested it could be a completely different area so don't count the number of days. Look at the relative, get a sense of scale by the 55 days, 55 days maybe 60 or 65 in reality. So you can't tell them that way but you have to look at them in relation to each other does that help?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks, Karen that's all we have time for, I'm sorry. Let me try to sneak in one more call, Sue from Santee, hello.

NEW SPEAKER: Hello great to talk to you Nan, and I have a question about sego Lily Sica was needed to something like high elevations but they are very drought tolerant desert plants and they are beautiful cannot grow them in Santee?

NAN STERMAN: Can you tell me the genus and species name?

NEW SPEAKER: [Inaudible]

NAN STERMAN: [Inaudible] are California native bulbs and depending on which time you can get yes you can probably grow the [inaudible] But I'll tell you they are not a beginner's plant in fact they grow at Torrey Pines, I've seen them in Torrey Pines annexing places around there but it depends on which species there are high desert once and obviously one such go to the coast so you have to find the ones that most closely match your elevation and climate.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How would she do that?

NAN STERMAN: You could start doing research on the there's a number of companies that so, they are hard to find, there's a place called Telo's rare bulbs Telo's rare bulbs that's online, they sell [Cordis] [inaudible] recon sometimes down your national city, recon native plant [Cordis] sometimes you can call and ask them. You can just Google it you might check the tree of life nursery in San Juan Capistrano they have a great catalog you can download online. I'm not certain that they sell [Cordis]. They might. But, if you start googling it and you look at the specifics again of the elevation where they are from and the climate that they are adapted to, find the one that is most closely matched to where you live and that is what you want to go with.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks for the call, Sue, I want to spend our last final minutes talking about the new season of growing passion. You kind of mention the fact that you've been pending a lot of times focusing on chaparral tell us about that.

NAN STERMAN: Chaparral is one of the episodes we are doing and I'm really excited about the stories we're telling the season most stories are going to be way we are doing an episode of chaparral when you watch it is going to look like we are doing it all in one day of course it took us about five days to shoot, but the sunrise over and separate group, so we started where the desert and the chaparral transition which is a little bit east of red cheetah and then follow the chaparral, we have many different kinds of chaparral but chaparral is our most important and most ubiquitous native habitat it's largely been eradicated and replaced by houses and buildings and things like that but it is so small in Elfin Forest in fact one of the nicknames for chaparral is Elfin Forest, it is our watershed. It is our most critical watershed without it we would have massive water flooding and terrible erosion problems. So we started in the desert, we went through the Mountain chaparral like around Mount Laguna, winter discount so it looked at the red shade chaparral and ended up with tour guides with the chaparral there it's going to be great so we have an episode on green roofs. There are some wonderful green roofs. We've been to the new massive green roof on Palomar Hospital absolutely gorgeous. I got to walk on it, most people don't. The new NOA building. the Atmospheric oceanic administration building on the La Jolla Shores Drive, that has a beautiful distributor area with seven great areas that are green roofs for the natives. We are going to be shooting at UCSD at fallen star, that exhibit on seventh or eighth floor of the Jacobs building that looks like you know, Toto from Wizard of Oz, like the house landed. So, that part is a green roof. We are going to be at a residential green roof and a couple other places.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just about the word or two about the other episodes coming up?

NAN STERMAN: We have an episode about food justice how we grow food and teach people but for people who really need it largely because they cannot buy in their areas, we have an episode on the winery and vineyard industry, fantastic.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to end it there but it sounds like you're having a great deal of fun doing these things.

NAN STERMAN: It's a lot of work it's really great. I'm excited.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've been speaking with Nan Sterman, gardening expert. He show is called a growing passion on K PBS TV.

NAN STERMAN: New episodes in January. Thank you.