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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Month By Month Planting Guide for Southern California

A 'Cheat Sheet'

Lettuce seedlings shoot for the sky.  Well, maybe 'shoot' is the wrong word, but they are on their way!  One small packet of seed produces hundreds of seedlings for a fraction of the cost of a single six-pack.  You get much more for much less; it does take a little more skill and a little more patience. 
These generalizations are for The Learning Garden, located in Sunset Zone 24, less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an alluvial plain that is just above sea level. Cold air from the surrounding hills drains into our area and we are reliably cooler than much of the surrounding areas. If you are growing inland from us, your temperatures fluctuate more than ours. As one gardens further from the ocean, the temperatures are less moderate and the effects of heat and cold are more pronounced. While we can grow some cool season crops year round (kale and chard come to mind first), this becomes more difficult without the ocean's pronounced influence.


Plant in the ground: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,
Plant in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but they would have been better started earlier – their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans


Plant in the ground: lettuce (and other salad greens), carrots, beets parsnips, radishes, spinach, purple beans,
Plant in containers: early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash


Plant in the ground: purple beans, lettuce, radishes, purple beans, beets, radishes, spinach, set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, sow early sweet corn,
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash,


Plant in the ground: beans of all colors, lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons and squash, okra,


Plant in the ground: all basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash (including cucumbers, set out plants of same and all tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) green and yellow beans and all the dried beans; corn too, if you have room
Plant in containers: As in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but it's getting late


Plant in the ground: all the above, but it's getting late... you can still get a crop, but it will be cut shorter by any early cool weather; the last of the corn can go in early in the month
Plant in containers: after starting pumpkin seeds, take a nap


Plant in the ground only out of necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping


Plant in the ground: nothing
Plant in containers: towards the end of the month, in a shaded location, the first of the winter veggies can be started, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans


Plant in the ground: nothing, until late in the month, start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist! Peas, lentils and garbanzo beans can be sown... If you grow onions from seed, start them now so you can transplant them out from October on.
Plant in containers: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, favas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,


Plant in the ground: by now you can begin to set out some of your cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, chard and so on. Continue with seeds as above... you can also direct sow favas if you want. Potatoes can usually be found about now as well as onions, garlic and shallots and they all should be planted from now until late November.
Plant in containers: More Cruciferae and favas, celery and celeriac,


Plant in the ground: More of September's plants can be sown – you still have time for all of them except onions, this will be the last month to plant peas, lentils, garbanzos and fava beans. Their growing season is too long to get the harvest you would want.
Plant in containers: I'm still sowing cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, but Brussels sprouts are a longer season item so they're not a part of my efforts until next season's planting begins.


Plant in the ground: Too little light and too many parties make it difficult to find garden time – but if you have some things left over from November, try to get that done.
Plant in containers: Pretty much the same story, if you have time, do more from November.

There are two big shifts in Southern Californian gardening: At the end of September, beginning of October it's all about the winter crops. At the end of February, beginning of March, the focus all shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks before then!). 

In General:  

Plants Started From Seed In Situ include:  

All root crops, including radishes, carrots, parsnips, beets, celeriac

Plants that can fend for themselves against pests, like fava beans, peas, green and other beans.

Plants that tend to stress when their roots are messed with: corn.

This list, however is not laid in stone. I have seen folks transplant corn, favas and even carrots more or less successfully. In my experience, it is a waste of time to carefully transplant carrots only to get mis-shapened roots.

Plants to set out as transplants:

One could just say, “Everything else,” but that's cheating.

Some things really do benefit by transplanting, including: broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, to name a few. They can be set lower in the soil when transplanted making for stronger, more healthy plants.
Plants that start out really small and could easily fall victim to pests, like lettuce or any of the various greens. Small seed = 'normally' sown in a sheltered location to be transplanted later.

The bottom line, however, is what is convenient to you or what your preference is as a gardener. If you don't have time, and you have relatively few slugs and snails, you might find lettuce easier to sow in the ground. I have had rows of tiny lettuce plants mowed over night, so without a sheltered location, I rarely will direct sow lettuce or other soft delectable snail and slug attractants.


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