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August 27, 2009

Planting for Fall in California

It's the dog days of August and we are all feeling lazy. It's warm out, there is a lounge chair in the shady part of the yard with your name on it. There is ice cream to eat and beaches to go to. Why would we want to think about broccoli or cauliflower, leeks or kale in this warm lazy weather? Well gird your loins (so to speak) it is time to jack yourself up into a hive of activity.

I always think that planting for fall is the most difficult of all the planting times of the year. But if you blink - you miss it. Suddenly the days are cooler, September is almost over and there is nothing growing in the garden except some ragged looking tomato plants and the end of a few mildew covered squash.

Sometimes it is hard to find room. We went crazy filling every available spot in the garden plot, with our mouths watering, thinking about delicious beans and squash, and now we have nowhere for the carrots, peas, chard, beets, leeks etc. For more info on what to plant go to the Sunset online Fall veggies article.

This week I went through the garden like the goddess Kali. Did I really want all these cucumber plants? If I really looked hard at the trellis covered in cukes it was mostly dying leaves and a few hanging fruits, so I pulled it apart, dug the bed and added lots of rotted compost and planted a whole bed of peas. I like to plant different varieties. This year I have planted Little Marvel for the actual peas, and Oregons for the pods.

What else can I destroy? I notice a row of corn that did not grow properly because the original plants were root bound, so out they go and in goes a nice row of leeks.

By Late July, early August we had eaten our way through most of the corn, so I had already pulled out the corn stalks and thrown them into compost, and after adding soil amendments and planting seeds, I now have chard, beet and salad mix seedlings. Next to come is a new bed that I will dedicate to salad mix.

Below is a photo of the weird little corn plants that grew out of plants left too long in small pots, becoming root bound. To the right are the normal sized corn stalks.


This week I also planted seeds of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, calendula and nasturtiums in small pots. When planting cool weather crop seeds in Northern California at this time of year, always be sure that they are in a cool, shady area to germinate and on no account let them dry out. Once the little seedlings emerge, allow them some light but be very careful not to bake them. The sun can be very strong this time time of year.

Happy planting!


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