In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2005
Regional Report

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Use heavy mulch around tires planted with lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, and other veggies to help moderate soil temperature and moisture year-round.

Time for Serious Fall Gardening

Finally we feel it's really fall. No more days so hot we want to escape inside. Now the weather's comfortably cool, great for working up a sweat but not feeling overdone with the effort -- unless we spend the whole day in the garden because the weather's so nice and we really want to get everything going.

Time is of the essence when it comes to seeding vegetables because I want to make sure they germinate and grow large enough that I can begin eating from them before the end of the year, when frosts threaten. Even though I haven't had a hard frost in my garden for several years, you never know what the weather will do this time around.

I want the little plants to put on good growth this fall for three reasons. First, they'll sustain only minor damage from any light frosts we do get. Secondly, they'll provide more food for us to eat all winter long. Lastly, they won't bolt with the first hint of spring warmth, as they would if they were still teeny.

Winter Eating
My dependables for winter eating are beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chard, chives, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce (I prefer the bibb and buttercrunch types, and my husband loves the romaine), and peas. I sow some every three weeks in their own beds and to fill in spots where I've harvested other items. If too many germinate where I've sown too thickly, I just transplant them. This results in a delay in maturation, but I consider it just another consecutive-harvest possibility.

I sow parsley twice a year -- in spring and in fall -- in their own areas. Last year, instead of a whole bed, I sowed a series of 10-foot by 4-inch strips next to my caged peas in winter, and next to caged tomatoes in summer. As each fall-planted strip matured, I cut swaths of parsley to use in the kitchen. By the time I'd clipped the last batch, the first one was ready for harvesting again. But this lasted only till June heat prompted bolting. This is why the spring sowing is important: the leaves are ready for picking when the fall-sown crop is bolting, and the harvest continues through the summer.

Even though they won't end up on my table till spring, sowing and transplanting flower seedlings now will enable them to develop into stronger plants that bloom earlier and more profusely in the spring, since they'll have the winter to grow extensive root systems.

Regretably, the cool, moist weather brings back snails and slugs, just in time to attack succulent seedlings. Handpick and stomp them after dark and after overhead watering.


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