Written by Katie S.
Southern California is blessed with such a mild climate that gardeners can enjoy a delicious bounty of fall and winter vegetables quite easily. Whether you have lots of time and energy to devote to a garden or you have a minimum amount of both, you can enjoy fresh vegetables all fall and winter long. Here’s what you need to know about planting your Southern California fall vegetable garden.
Why Should You Plant Fall Vegetables?
The fall is the ideal season to plant vegetables in Southern California for many reasons. One primary reason is that the weather is cooler with much of the summer’s heat already over. In spite of this, the soil is still warm and nurturing, allowing seeds and young plants to develop more quickly than they might in cooler temps.
Fall vegetables tend to be slow growing so early fall is the ideal time to plant. Doing so then gives these slow growers enough time to mature.
Another reason that fall is a favorite time for planting vegetables is that the bug population takes a dip. Not only does this make gardening more comfortable for you, it also reduces the chances of your vegetables being attacked. Diseases that can devastate a garden tend to be less of a problem during the cooler fall and winter months in Southern California.
For the gardener who’s looking for a low maintenance routine, planting fall vegetables could fit the bill perfectly. The cooler weather means your garden needs less watering. Weeds, too, aren’t as much of a problem. They won’t be as strong during the cooler months and can be more easily removed than the hardy weeds that grow during the warmer months.
Even if your responsibilities increase during the fall and winter months, you can still plant and enjoy fall vegetables. These plants tend to be hardier because they are subjected to the heat of the summer. There is more leeway in harvesting time with plants able to wait in the garden for longer periods of time during the cooler weather of the fall and winter.
Clean It Up
Before planting fall vegetables, make sure you prepare your garden area. Start off by removing any remnants of your warm-weather gardening efforts. Turn over the rest of the soil before adding aged manure or compost. Adding an organic fertilizer at this time — or just after you plant — is often enough to last fall vegetables throughout the winter.
If you’re starting off with a brand-new garden, make sure that you choose the right spot. A place that gets are least eight full hours of sun is ideal. You can also plant your fall vegetables in pots if you’re limited in space. Just make sure you remove any old soil and dispose of it in the compost pile.
Unless there is a drought, most of the cooler months in Southern California have enough rain so that you shouldn’t need to water your vegetable garden. Overwatering your fall vegetables can lead to root because the temperatures are cool. Before watering, test the soil by pushing your finger into the soil about one-inch deep. Water gently only if the soil feels dry.
Another idea is to use raised beds to plant in the fall — or any time of the year. Doing so prevents your plants from becoming waterlogged and it aids in keeping the soil well drained.
How to Maintain Your Fall Garden
Make sure to mulch your fall vegetables well. Doing so will help to preserve the moisture that’s already present in the soil. Though harvesting isn’t as time-sensitive in the fall and winter, it’s still important to do so regularly.
What Should You Plant?
Of course, the fall vegetables you grow depend almost entirely on your own personal preferences. That being said, consider adding at least one vegetable that you’ve never grown before or that you don’t like to eat. You might learn that you actually do like a certain vegetable once you’ve grown it fresh.
Some ideas for planting include the following:
- Leafy greens include salad fixings that taste so much better when you harvest them right from your own backyard. Try arugula, mustard, spinach, chard and/or a variety of lettuces. Be sure to limit the number of seeds you plant at any one time and plant over a period of several weeks. Leafy greens tend to be quick growing so you could be harvesting as early as a month after planting.
- Beets and carrots both grow amply when planted from seeds. With beets, choose a combination of different colors and plant about three inches apart in monthly intervals. When planting carrots, choose soil that’s looser and free of stones. If you can’t provide 12 inches of such soil or you’re growing in pots, look for shorter carrot varieties. Be sure to space carrots out well unless you want to spend a lot of time thinning them out.
- Peas grow slowly so they can seem like they aren’t doing anything after you plant them. Don’t give up though as peas can provide a variety in fall planting that sustains you throughout the season. Even if you choose to plant bush-type peas, give them a cage or trellis so they have the support to climb. Peas are also the ideal fall vegetable to grow if you are gardening in containers.
- Potatoes that have gone to seed make excellent starters for your fall garden. First, cut them into chunks, making sure that each has two eyes then let them dry out for a couple of days. Make sure you always keep them covered with soil and harvest when the plants bloom.
Green Thumb Nursery is here to help you with all your fall vegetable growing needs! Whether you need seeds, plants or supplies, our friendly and knowledgeable staff is always ready to step in and step up to provide assistance! Stop by for a visit today!
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