The Island City Fall Garden To-Do and Ta-Da Lists

Holly Johnson -- Jetsetter Hybrid Tomatoes still heavy with fruit at the end of October.
Holly Johnson -- Jetsetter Hybrid Tomatoes still heavy with fruit at the end of October.

The Island City Fall Garden To-Do and Ta-Da Lists

The lovely fall weather in the Bay Area diminishes any sense of urgency about preparing Alameda’s home gardens for the winter and following spring. However it’s a great time to celebrate successes and set the stage for even more next year.

After a slow start to the summer, tomatoes finally ripened and are still producing. Take note of the varieties that did the best in your micro-climate or that you enjoyed eating the most. Think about where to plant next year - plan to rotate crops around the garden, especially if any tomato diseases were present. Too many tomatoes? Try freezing them whole to use in sauces or salsa during the winter. Too many green tomatoes? Try storing them in a closed cardboard box with an apple or banana to hasten ripening.

Rethink raised bed plantings. Did tomatoes shade the eggplant? Would a few extra rows of garlic fit in?

Throughout the garden, clear out any dead leaves that are diseased or infested with insects. Put them in the green bin, not your home compost bin.

The rainy winter of 2022-2023 provided fruit trees with the moisture they needed to produce a bountiful harvest. Which trees outperformed? Was this the summer of apples, persimmons, or figs? Peach trees, though, suffered from the rains during the spring. If your peach or nectarine tree suffered from peach leaf curl, seriously consider spraying during the dormant season, starting in late November.

If you planted for pollinators, have you noticed the results? Monarch butterflies are most prevalent in Alameda County during the fall months, from September to November. This is when they are migrating from their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest to their overwintering grounds in Mexico.

Alameda’s long growing season means that as summer crops fade, it is time to plant cool weather crops like peas, shallots, radishes and fava beans. By the time the days start getting longer, the seedlings will be able to take advantage of the additional light.

Clean up summer perennials and compost the dead leaves and branches (remember to put diseased or infested leaves in the green bin). To stop the cycle of codling moth in apple or pear trees, do not allow any diseased fruit to lie on the ground or hang on the tree. Pick and dispose of it in the green bin. Periodically check under loose scales of bark and in soil or debris under the tree for any cocoons.

Prepare for next year by adding compost to the soil to nourish it, and mulch on top to protect it, preserve moisture, and cut down on weeds. Free compost is available on most Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10-5 at the Compost Hub, sponsored by Farm2Market, Bay Area Makerfarm, and Stop Waste.

Prune perennial shrubs and trees. Keep in mind the 4 D’s: remove branches that are Dead, Diseased, Damaged or Disoriented (disoriented = branches headed inwards or awkwardly sideways instead of radiating out and up at a 45 degree angle, or those rubbing against another branch. Trim to shape before spring growth. Bushes that look brown or dead can be rejuvenated with a good pruning, allowing them to regrow from the base. Other shrubs are best left alone so the extra leaves can take better advantage of the lower light available.

Plant new trees or shrubs. Our local nurseries have plenty of healthy trees and shrubs in containers in stock right now, including citrus and other fruit trees, and will do well in the last bit of warmth the soil has before winter arrives.

Or consider planting bare-root trees and shrubs at the start of the new year. Bare-root plants are dormant plants that have been dug up from the nursery and their roots are wrapped in material to keep them moist. Blueberries can do well in Alameda. Bare-root plants generally become widely available in December or January.

Examine the irrigation system before turning it off for the winter. Did a puppy bite off the sprinkler heads? Is precious water directed most efficiently to plants that need it? Was the timing correct this year or could it be spaced out a bit to save water?

Just like the soil, gardeners deserve to rest and be nourished before a new growing season. Celebrate your ta-da’s and give time to enjoy the to-do’s!

Holly Johnson writes for Alameda Backyard Growers. Visit ABG at or contact ABG at