In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
Garden decoration, with or without tomatoes!
Harvesting and Sowing
Can you bear to get out into the garden, with these hot and humid days? It's a real trick for me, as I seem to be becoming more intolerant of the heat, and never did like the humidity. I'm so glad that even on the warmest days our evenings offer relief with breezes coming inland after dinnertime, so I can still enjoy the garden a bit before it's too dark to tell the difference between weeds and plants I want.
As we begin our tomato harvest for real instead of savoring the few early fruits from volunteer plants transplanted in February I love being able to scatter seeds of fall crops in the shade of larger plants as a promise to myself that the searing heat will truly end and I'll love the cool moisture to come.
Sow beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, endive, escarole, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, thick-leafed and heading lettuces, onions, parsley, peas, white potatoes, radishes, shallots, and spinach. Savoy-leafed types of cabbage and spinach will resist frosts better than the more tender flat-leaf varieties. Last sowings of summer-maturing crops can also be made now: bush beans, cucumbers, oakleaf lettuce, white seed potatoes, New Zealand spinach, and squash.
Keep seed beds or flats moist and shaded during the hottest portion of the day until the seeds germinate. A light mulch helps keep the soil surface from crusting, especially over tiny seeds that take a while to germinate, like carrots and parsley. Boards laid over the seed bed also help to keep it from drying out. Prop them up or remove them when more than half of the seeds germinate.
Sow carrots, lettuce, and spinach -- a dozen or so seeds at a time -- every two or three weeks from now through October. This will provide a succession of succulent harvests through the winter. Leafy green plants like lettuce and spinach that are 3 or 4 inches tall and wide, and carrots that are at least 1/2 inch in diameter before the first hard frost will be mature enough to provide harvests through early spring. If they're smaller, they'll not provide much to eat until spring, when they may bolt first.
When you plan the layout of your fall and winter gardens, consider which new crops should follow those just removed; follow heavy feeders with light feeders, and vice versa. Heavy feeders include beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, collards, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, okra, parsley, pumpkins, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. Light feeders inlude carrots, chard, garlic, leeks, mustard, onions, parsnips, peppers, potatoes, rutabaga, shallots, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
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