It’s Almost Time to Get Planting by Katie Walter (UC Master Gardener San Joaquin County)

How is your garden growing? Tomatoes, peppers, melons, and of course zucchini are probably going strong, and zinnias and dahlias are flowering like mad, given enough water.  Other parts of your garden, no matter how large or small, may be looking a little peaked in the heat. Lettuce, spinach, and other spring greens have gone to seed. But luck is with you. Those tattered parts of the garden are ready for a refresh: It’s almost time to plant your fall garden.

Just last week I said I don’t plant anything between May and September. That’s a good general rule for gardening in the hot Central Valley unless you are prepared to provide some shade to protect your tender newbies. But by September the days are shorter and soil temperatures are still warm, the best time to plant many vegetables.

Most online fall-planting guides aimed at the country as a whole recommend planting “10 to 12 weeks before your first killing frost….” We are fortunate in being able to ignore that advice. The Central Valley experiences very few if any killing frosts. A little protection for citrus when outdoor temperatures are coldest is all that’s typically required to get our gardens through the winter. Our temperate climate means we can plant in the fall and continue to replant to keep the fridge loaded with fresh-from-the-garden lettuce, radishes, broccoli, and other cool-weather produce.

September and early October are the perfect time to set out broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, leek, and parsley seedlings. Master Gardener Kathy Ikeda provided details two weeks ago in this blog on the proper way to put plants into the ground. The extra time you take up front, following her recommendations, will yield healthier, happier, and more productive plants. Beets, carrots, chard, collards, kale, leeks, lettuce, radishes, and spinach are best planted from seed. Onions and shallots can be planted from seed or “sets.”

Don’t limit yourself to orange carrots and purple beets. Carrots seed is available in an enormous range of colors from yellow to red to purple. Beets now come in yellow and red. Chard can be tinged with red, and cauliflower can be green. Get colorful in your vegetable garden this fall.

The number of days that various vegetables take to mature doesn’t matter as much here as in other parts of the country where gardeners have to worry about harvesting their produce before hard frosts kill plants. Still, it’s useful information and may serve as a guide for what plants to keep together in your garden.

The quickest to mature among the root crops, in approximately 30 days, are chives, bunching onions, and radishes. Broccoli, all kinds of lettuces, mustard, and spinach also mature in about 30 days. Root crops that take about 60 days include early carrots and leeks. Leafy crops taking 60 days include early cabbages, cauliflower, and Swiss chard. Beets, carrots, parsnips, onions, and shallots take 90 days, as do Brussels sprouts and cabbages.

You might consider asparagus if you have an area in your garden that can be devoted to this vegetable year-round. After all, Stockton claims to be the asparagus capitol of the world, and fall is the time to plant. One-year-old asparagus crowns are available from many nurseries in the winter months.

In the fall, look beyond your vegetable garden. The cooler months of October and November are the optimal time to plant shrubs, perennial flowers, trees, and new lawns. As I noted last week, fall is also best for transplanting trees and shrubs that are getting too much shade or too much sun in their current location. The soil is warm enough to encourage these plants to begin developing a deep, healthy root system. The rains of winter feed the new plantings so they are in their prime come spring and the heat of summer.

Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to add some colorful annuals to your fall planting agenda. Pansies, primroses, cyclamen, and alyssum are just a few of the cool-season flowers that will bring spots of color to your yard even after the gray, rainy days of winter arrive.

For gardening related questions, call the UC Master Gardener office at 209-953-6112, or use our websitehttp://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/.

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Blog Author

    Marcy Sousa

    Marcy Sousa is the San Joaquin County UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator. She is a Stockton native and enjoys teaching others about gardening. She has her bachelors from Stanislaus State in Permaculture. She has been with the program since 2007. Read Full
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