Written by David S.
With the extended growing season in most areas of Southern California, it is not too late to plan and plant a fall and winter vegetable garden. This blog discusses a handful of plants that you can still plant and harvest before winter. We also go into some details that make growing a fall garden more successful and enjoyable. Let’s get started.
Ten Fall Vegetables to Plant Now
- Carrots — are a direct sow crop. They grow well in containers or the ground. You have many options for choosing carrot varieties, and some cultivars take much longer than others. You can start harvesting smaller carrots around day 55, from when you planted the seeds. Fully mature carrots can take up to 80 days.
- Beets — are a direct sow crop, and you can plant these in containers or the ground. There are several options for picking beet varieties, and a favorite is the golden beets which are a little sweeter. Red beets are excellent pickled. Expect to harvest beets around 50 days or when the top of the beet (the shoulder) is about one inch in diameter.
- Greens — are leafy vegetables from an array of plant families. They include beet greens, Mizuna, lettuces, spinach, cress, microgreens, etc. Greens are often mature in 30-40 days and microgreen in about 20 days. If you are looking for a short crop, greens are ideal.
- Spinach — is a fall and winter staple. Plant more than you think you will need as you will use more than you thought you would. Spinach is ready in 34-40 days. Direct so, or start in seed planting trays. For Fall gardens, opt for a slow bolt variety of spinach.
- Kale — is a lush fall and winter leafy green. There are many varieties of kale. If you love to make vegetable smoothies, kale will become a staple ingredient. A good tip is to grow a variety of kale and then replant the ones that you love. It is easy to keep kale most of the year in the garden. Use successive planting techniques by reseeding kale every two weeks.
- Radish — is a fast-growing crop with a few varieties to choose from for your garden. Daikon and Wasabi are two of the hotter cultivars. Daikon radish grows over a foot in length and is ready for harvest in about 60 days. Smaller radish can be harvest-ready in about 30 days. Besides their traditional usage in salads, you can also bake and roast radishes.
- Mustard — is a big leafy green plant with heat. If you like a little spicy bite to your food, you will probably love mustard greens. There are many varieties available, and they range in hotness. Mustard is ready to harvest in 40-60 days. It works best as a cut-and-come-again type of crop. Cut what you need and allow the plant to produce leaves.
- Head Lettuce — is a staple for many of us. A favorite is Butter Crunch. Lettuce grows quickly, produces a lot, and works lovely as a succession plant. Expect fully grown and mature plants to be harvest-ready around 100 days after sowing seeds. You can snip leaves around 60 days after planting. Included here is non-head-bearing lettuces, which can be ready to harvest in 20-40 days.
- Bunching Onions — we buy these in the market as green onions. Bunching onions are easy to grow and will continue to provide a harvest for months. You can plant these in the ground or a container, and when successively sown, will keep you in green onions throughout most of the year.
- Parsnips — can be challenging to grow because they have such a low germination rate. To overcome the poor germination, plant more seeds than you think you will need. They are a crop that needs planting where they will grow. Most root vegetables are more successful when sown directly than transplanted.
Whether a single pot or an acre of nicely spaced rows, every successful garden starts with healthy soil. You may have healthy soil in your garden, or you may need to build it. Healthy soil is full of light and organic matter. The soil should be light and fluffy, dark and moist, and with an earthy smell. Organic matter in the soil helps keep the soil aerated and provide nutrients that plants need. Here is a list of products that help make poor soil a gardens treasure.
If your soil is full of clay, it is dense, compact, and drains poorly — Not a healthy situation. To fix soils that have too much clay, we use aggregates. These include
- Coconut Coir – though not an aggregate.
Any of these helps break up clay and allow better oxygenation and drainage to occur. Start by digging in about 10% of the volume and check the results. For example, in a 10-gallon pot, you would add one gallon of aggregate. You may need more, but start with 10% and see how that goes.
2. Fertilizers and Amendments
If you are reusing potting soil or your in-ground soil lacks nutrients, soil amendments or fertilizers can help. Those include:
- Compost — bagged or made by you, is one of the best ways to improve soil nutrient loads. There are many wonderful bagged and organic compost brands available. A favorite is FoxFarm or Black Gold.
- Fertilizers — are usually plant-specific. You would choose a fertilizer based on what you are growing or use a general fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 to amend the soil. Any of our plant experts can help you choose the perfect fertilizer for your plants, and they are available to answer questions.
- Specialty Soil Amendments — We carry many specialty products that help amend the soil or feed plants. Compost tea is one category that offers a unique way to improve soil health and provide nutrients to plants. Be sure to shop the entire line of soil amendments and fertilizers available at all five of our Southern California Locations.
Right now is the best time to start a fall or winter garden. With some prep work and a collection of seeds or seedlings, you can get started today and reap the benefits in as little as 30 days.
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