Fall is upon us and it's time for a shift in seasons. Here in Southern California, we really do have four seasons, even if they don't follow the rules!! Our summers can be long and drawn out and rain seems to come early or late, but never when we think it will. As the days get shorter and cooler our “warm season” vegetables slow their production and our summer herbs are going to flower.
Warm season veggies are annuals that, by nature, usually produce their complete life cycle, from seed to seed, in one year. There are some veggies such as tomatoes and peppers that continue producing into the late fall. It's tempting each year to try and “overwinter” them, pushing them to last until next spring when they can start producing again. It's important to remember that it's not just the temperatures of the soil and air that cause fruits and veggies to produce, it's also the length of day light. Overwintering your warm season veggies may also lead to pest problems from overwintering insects and disease parts. Cool season veggies are less often the fruits of the plant and are usually stems, immature flower heads and leaves. These plants do well with the cooler temps and shorter days and they are perfect for your cool season edible garden.
Here are a few great cool season veggies that do well in San Bernardino County:
Peas: Easy to grow, easy to seed save from and there are lots of different types! Types include English Peas, Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas and many come in both bush or pole varieties. They can be planted throughout the season and usually take about 60 to 70 days to be ready to harvest. Peas are a legume, a plant that can “fix” nitrogen (bring N into the soil) so they usually don't need much fertilizer. They can be direct seeded into the soil or planted in smaller pots and transplanted. Sweet peas (although not edible!) can be planted now too.
Carrots: Carrots come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors so these are a must have in any cool season garden! They like to be direct seeded into the soil and the seeds don't like to be planted too deep. They also like the soil to be nice and fluffy so they can grow a nice shaped root, so it's a good idea to loosen the soil before planting. Some people even grow a crop right next to the carrots to keep the soil loose while the seeds are germinating and starting to grow. Pick a crop to grow next to carrots that doesn't take up too much space under ground, like lettuce, and also one that will be wrapping up as the carrots are starting to grow bigger. Carrots can be succession planted too, staggering the plantings, so that you have a continued supply of carrots throughout the season. Carrot seeds are easy to save, but they take two seasons to get a crop, and also need a few carrot buddies near them for success, so keep that in mind if you are planning to save your own carrot seeds. They are usually ready to harvest in about 70 to 80 days.
Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, turnips and more): These plants can be grown in So Cal with much success, but they can be a little trickier than some of the other cool season veggies. Some of them like to be planted in warmer soils but don't like our long hot falls, like Brussel sprouts, so if you are having trouble reach out to our helpline and attend our free classes to learn more about caring for this family of veggies. They do well being direct seeded, or transplanted and are ready in about 50 to 110 days, depending on what type and variety you are planting. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale can “bolt” if we get warm spells, but they can be planted into the early part of next year (if you don't live where you get too much frost) so if you plant them early but have trouble, don't give up, try again! Seeds can be saved from these plants, but they do cross breed with others in the family, so they need a little bit more attention to get seeds saved successfully. For more information on that check out this month's seed saving class on Oct 28th. Register here https://ucanr.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcqd--rqzspG9A1-wCMt7j6oVULAen5Hu3A
Radishes: One of the quickest growing veggies around, they are ready in about 28 days for most varieties and are easy to grow! In So Cal they can be grown year-round, but they do best in the cooler season when the temps are lower to promote the development of the root into a bulb. They should be direct seeded into the soil and like loose soil for best growth. They can also be succession planted so that you can have a harvest all season. They are easy to seed save from and fun for all ages!!
Lettuces: Like radishes, lettuce can be grown year-round in So Cal if you can find the right area to grow them, but they do best when grown in cooler weather. There are many many types of lettuces and they are relatively easy to grow. Moisture on the leaves should be avoided to prevent disease from developing, but they dry out and suffer in quality easily when the soil is not kept evenly moist (but not soggy), so make sure you don't let they get too dry! They can be direct seeded or planted from transplants and are ready in about 40 to 55 days depending on the variety. They can be succession planted, but you can also prolong the harvest by removing the lower leaves and leaving the plant in to grown more leaves. Lettuce is another one that is easy to seed save from, and if your lettuce does bolt due to late warm weather consider leaving it in and allowing it to go to flower so you can harvest the seeds.
Onions and Garlic: Fall is the best time to plant your So Cal onions and garlic. Onion varieties are long day, short day and day neutral. Short day onions do best in So Cal since they require the least amount of day light to grow a great bulb. Garlic varieties are either softneck or hardneck. The most common is soft neck, but there are advantages to both, so the choice is up to you! Planting your onions and garlic now will give them time to grow and be ready for harvest in the spring!
Winter squash and pumpkins: Our winter squash and pumpkins are usually harvested when they are mature, instead of our summer squash that is harvested when it's immature. While we harvest those things in the fall and winter, they are planted in the summer. Next year plan your cool season squash and pumpkins by planting in the early to mid-summer and if you are trying to get fall pumpkins plant early to mid-summer and harvest when the vine starts drying out. Then store in a cool dry place until you are ready to use them during the holidays. You can also count backwards, figuring out how long it should take for them to be harvested and then plant them at the correct time in the summer. The only challenge with that is that puts planting time in July when it's often very hot, so those young plants may need a little extra care to keep them from over heating, or you can plant earlier and then harvest early and store until you want to carve or use them to decorate. Harvest time is about 80 to 110 days, and seeds can be saved from most squash varieties easily, as long as you control or are aware of the pollination needs for that variety.
Herbs: Most herbs can be planted year-round in most parts of So Cal, but the spring and the fall are especially good times of year to plant. If you are planning to grow some of your own herbs for holiday cooking, then now is a good time to start to let your plant establish before you start harvesting! To learn more about growing herbs check out our free class this month on Oct 14th Register here: https://ucanr.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMtf-qrrTsvGtJLGcWOlNFPO9ui9QtCu7es