Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2012
Regional Report

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Sow in rows or containers for easy attention to watering for good germination.

Sowing the Fall-Through-Spring Garden

It's time to get those seeds started for eating and beauty all fall and winter long. Here are some tips to help you get planting.

Sow beets, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, chervil, chives, cilantro, collards, endive, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, green onions, short-day bulb onions (like Grano, Granex, and Walla Walla), parsley (the flat-leaf type is more winter-hardy than the curly one), parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

As some herbs reseed themselves, transplant them around the garden for overwintering. Dill, especially, seems to germinate better this way -- without our human interference -- so take advantage of it.

Sow or transplant two or three times the amount you would in spring, as these overwintering crops will grow very slowly, and you'll harvest only a couple of leaves each week from each lettuce plant.

Problems with seed germination may be due to old seed, soil that is too warm or has been allowed to dry out, or seeds that were sown either too deeply or not deeply enough.

Keep seedbeds moist and shaded from hot afternoon sun until the seedlings develop two to four true leaves. After transplanting them, mulch the soil lightly, and add more mulch in October and November for additional frost protection. Keep the mulch an inch away from the plant stems, however, for good air circulation and less potential for disease problems.

Vegetables that tolerate light frosts and temperatures in the upper twenties will extend the growing season and provide fresh produce all winter long. These include beets, Chinese and savoy-leafed cabbages, collards, kale, butterhead and heading and leaf and romaine lettuces, flat-leaf parsley, radishes, turnips, savoy-leafed spinaches, and Swiss chard.

Plants that have developed deep root systems and mature leaves are more tolerant of the cold. When these plants are three or four inches in size before the first hard frost, they're mature enough to be harvested throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. These will bolt at the first real warmth of early spring, though, so they can't be counted on to provide a crop after that. But by then, you'll have made the first spring plantings, so the gap between harvests won't be too long.

When sowing cover crops for the fall and winter, consider edible ones. Kale and rocket (also called roquette or arugula) are full-flavored leafy vegetables that withstand freezing and are still tender when tiny. Both germinate in cool weather and are welcome fresh greens for stir-fry and soups all winter long. In the spring, they can be easily turned under as "green manure" when preparing the soil for the main spring and summer crops.

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