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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Cheat Sheet for Planting Times

Probably in May, a squash on its way to be transplanted.

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.

There are two different ways to plant seeds (and I always suggest growing from seed): 1. In the ground – right where the plant will grow, you must do this for root crops, but many plants can be planted in the ground directly or, 2. In a container in a sheltered location – like in the house or on a porch. This is usually done for plants that start out very small and benefit from more attention and care. It is also almost always the way to start tomatoes and Cruciferae (aka Brassicaceae) that benefit from being placed deeper in the soil when transplanted.

Note:  This document is always being revised based on each season I grow food and it is in no way a 'complete' list.  It is, however, a really good starting point and will get you close to 'right' most of the time.

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 & 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, did I say it was 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 – extreme necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping

Plant in the ground: nothing if you can avoid it
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, leeks, shallots, onions...

Plant in the ground: nothing,that is until late in the month,then start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist! Peas, lentils and garbanzo beans can also be sown...
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 for seed can usually be found about now as well as sets or seed bulbs of onions, garlic and shallots; they all should be planted from now until late November.
Plant in containers: More Cruciferae and favas, celery and celeriac, 

In October and November especially when you have seedlings or seeds in the ground, be on the lookout for Santa Ana winds.  Keep that upper quarter inch of soil or so moist even when these winds blow - that can mean watering a little every day... don't soak the ground but keep those seeds moist or you will loose the whole bunch.

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, shallots, garlic and fava beans. Their growing season is too long to get the harvest you would want. Although the legumes can be planted if you are willing to take a lesser harvest or are using them as a cover (green manure) crop.
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 the next cool growing season.

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 of all that's listed 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 shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks). 


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