Late Summer Planting Guide: Vegetables to Grow for a Fall Harvest and When to Plant Them

Written by Susan B.

There is no denying the fact that our southern California climate is ideal for gardening – regardless of what you grow. Whether you’re an experienced vegetable gardener, a less experienced gardener, or someone who has never grown vegetables, late summer is the perfect time to think about planting for a late summer or early fall harvest. And since we stock our stores with seasonal offerings, you’ll have no problem finding seeds or starter plants to use in your late summer vegetable garden. To get the most authoritative information about planting schedules, we consulted the University of California Division of Natural Resources Vegetable Garden Planting Guide.

Growing Vegetables in Southern California 

Our Southern California climate makes it possible to grow vegetables all year. Unlike many parts of the country where there is a limited growing season, and planting times revolve around the first and last frost dates, our ability to grow things all year means that we rely on a calendar that is laid out in the California Master Gardener’s Handbook. 

If you’re planting seeds, look at the package to find out how long it takes for seeds to germinate, and the time until harvest. You can direct sow vegetable seeds for plants from which you’ll get a crop in late summer or in the fall. You can start seeds in peat pots or peat pellets for vegetables you plan to transplant into your garden.

Late Summer Planting of Brassica Vegetables

Cabbage
For areas along the south coast, plant cabbage in August. In the interior valley areas, plant cabbage in July. 

Celeriac
Celeriac (or celery root) is one of the brassica vegetables. Plant it in July and August, whether you live in an area along the south coast or an area within the interior valleys. 

Chinese Cabbage
Areas along the California southern coast should plant Chinese cabbage in August and September. For communities in the interior valley, plant Chinese cabbage in August. 

Cauliflower
Residents of areas along the southern California coast should plant cauliflower in mid-to-late July, or In August or September. 

Residents of the interior valley areas can plant cauliflower in July or August. 

Kale
In areas that lie along the southern California coast, plant kale in August and September. Plant kale in August and September if you live in an area that lies in the interior valleys. 

Kohlrabi
We doubt many home gardeners regularly plant kohlrabi in their vegetable gardens, but if you do, or if you’d like to do so, plant it in August or September in areas lying along the southern coast. Plant it in September if you live in the interior valley area. 

Mustard
Mustard greens are a southern staple, but that doesn’t mean that Californians can’t plant it in their home vegetable gardens. It is packed with nutrition, and it’s as versatile a side dish as spinach, Swiss chard, or kale. We encourage you to grow a variety of nutrient-rich vegetables in your garden – especially if you have space. Plant it in August and September if you live in southern coastal areas, and in September if you live in the interior valleys. 

Radishes
In areas along the southern California coastline, gardeners can plant radishes all year long. September is the time to plant them if you live in an area that lies in the interior valleys. You can direct sow radish seeds. That means you can plant them in the ground. Don’t worry about spreading the seeds out because you’ll have to thin your seedlings after they sprout. 

Turnips
It never occurred to us that turnips could belong to any other class of vegetables than root vegetables, but the turnip belongs to the brassica — or cruciferous family. And they are more versatile than you think. You can mash turnips, rice them, roast them, or add them to a soup. 

In our southern coastal areas, plant turnips in August or September. In the interior valleys, August is the time to plant turnips so you can get a fall harvest.

Late Summer Root Vegetables 

Root vegetables are versatile because you can cook them in a variety of ways and use them in soups, as side dishes (either roasted or pureed.) 

You can plant beets, fennel, onions, and leeks in August. Sow carrots and parsnips from seed in August or September. They are more challenging to grow. Rutabaga, which is also difficult to grow, can be planted in July, August, or September. 

In our mild climate, you can grow green onions all year long. 

If you want to grow white potatoes, plant them in July and August in southern coastal regions, and in August in the interior valleys. 

Late Summer Beans and Peas

If you hope to get a late summer or fall harvest, plant bush beans, cowpeas, and lima beans in July and August. The same goes for pole beans, but they are more challenging to grow. If you live in a community along our southern coast, plant peas in August. 

Late Summer Annual and Biennial Herbs

If you want to continue to get fresh herbs in late summer and through the fall, plant basil, cilantro, dill and parsley in July and August. You can also plant dill then, but bear in mind that dill seeds scatter quickly in the wind. If you don’t want the dill to spread uncontrollably, consider growing it in a container or a place away from other plants and herbs. 

Late Summer Perennial Herbs 

Perennial herbs come back every year, so once you plant them, you’ll be able to harvest herbs throughout the growing season for many years. If you’d like to get a late summer and fall harvest, plant anise-hyssop, borage, comfrey, lavender, oregano, sage, and thyme in July and August.

Fast-Growing Leafy Greens

When we mention fast-growing leafy greens, we’re talking about vegetables that will be ready to harvest within anywhere between three and seven to eight weeks. Those leafy greens include arugula, chicory, lettuce, mesclun mix, spring mix, or lettuce blends – either the baby or full-size varieties. You should sow arugula, and lettuce, and other leafy green vegetable seeds directly in the ground. Wet the soil before you plant your seeds, so they don’t wash away. Don’t cover your lettuce seeds with soil after scattering them. Lettuce seeds must have light to germinate. 

Slow-Growing Leafy Greens 

Slow-growing leafy greens take longer to grow than their faster-growing relatives. Slow-growing leafy greens include collards, Swiss Chard, and spinach. Plant these nutrient-rich vegetables in August or September. 

We encourage you to consider growing any of the delicious vegetables and herbs we’ve listed here. With all the uncertainty we’re facing these days, growing food crops gives you control over some of the food you eat. It’s also a chance for families to engage in an activity together. All our stores like to vary their inventory, so our offerings change from season to season, and in response to customer demand. Our garden experts can answer any questions you have, or give you advice about vegetable gardening to help you get a bountiful late summer and fall harvest. 

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