In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2009
Regional Report

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Chard will provide nutritious dark leafy greens through next summer!

Transition Time in the Garden

September's mildness makes just about any gardening tasks pleasant. The soil and air are warm but not overly hot. Fresh summer produce is still delicious, but production is slowing down. Garden tasks center around cleaning up the old garden and getting the new one started. Seeds and transplants of cool-weather crops can be planted now for harvests from fall through early spring. Seeds sown now for spring blooms and crops -- especially edible peas and flowering sweet peas -- will encourage strong root and foliar development that will survive most frosts, thrive, and bear sooner in the spring. Soil amendments can be collected and dug in now to break down over the winter, enriching the soil for next year's gardens.

Vegetables that tolerate light frosts and temperatures in the upper twenties will extend the growing season and provide fresh produce all winter long. These include beets, Chinese and savoy-leafed cabbages, collards, kale, butterhead and heading and romaine lettuces, flat-leaf parsley, radishes, turnips, savoy-leafed spinaches, and Swiss chard. Sow or transplant two or three times the amount you would for spring harvest, as these overwintering crops will grow very slowly, and you'll harvest only a leaf or two at a time from each plant. So you need a lot more plants in order to harvest enough for a couple of salads per week.

Plants that have developed deep root systems and mature leaves are more tolerant to the cold. When these plants are 3 or 4 inches in size before the first hard frost, they're mature enough to be harvested throughout the fall, winter, and early spring. These will bolt at the first real warmth of early spring, though, so they can't be counted on to provide a crop after that. But by then you'll have made the first spring plantings, so the gap between harvests won't be too long.

When sowing cover crops for the fall and winter, consider edible ones. Kale and rocket (roquette, arugula) are full-flavored leafy vegetables that withstand freezing. Both germinate in cool weather and are welcome fresh greens for stir-fry and soups all winter long. In the spring, they can be easily turned under as "green manure" when preparing the soil for the main spring and summer crops. This is a great way to feed you and then feed the soil!


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