By Evelyn Alemanni
Just because summer is ending doesn’t mean you should hang up your trowel. In Southern California, fall is considered our “second spring” and is an ideal time to plant vegetables in the garden, in raised beds, or even in pots.
Varieties listed below perform best in cool weather—there may be fewer insect pests, and rainfall is more plentiful than in summer. Cooler days also mean less watering, even if there’s no rainfall.
Good to Know: Even though there may be fewer harmful bugs in late summer, snails and slugs thrive in cool, moist weather. Pick them off plants in the early morning or evening. Or use snail bait to control them.
As nights get cooler, plant vegetables grown in cell-packs. Plants raised from seed will take longer to become established at this time of year.
Good to Know: In late August you can still plant a few cucumbers and tomatoes while the soil is warm.
Starting in October, you can plant lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, Swiss chard, kale, celery, onions, garlic, peas and spinach. Turnips, carrots and radishes are best grown from seeds. Radishes are great fun to plant with children because they grow so quickly.
Tip: You don’t need to harvest the entire plant at once. Just take a few stems of lettuce, celery, spinach, kale and chard, and the plants continue to grow.
Just as your summer vegetables, fall vegetables appreciate well-drained soil. If you plant in containers, use fresh potting mix rather than reusing soil. If you plant in the ground or raised beds, mix some compost into the soil, and top-dress with an inch or two of mulch to help retain soil moisture.
Good to Know: Fertilize when you plant and once a month after that using a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) or a light application of chicken manure.
When you expect freezing temperatures, protect your crops with a row cover to trap the heat. You also can use old bedsheets and tablecloths—just be sure to remove them during the day. Don’t use plastic sheets or tarps because they can freeze and harm your plants.
Good to Know: Consider letting some of your vegetables bloom. Broccoli, celery and carrots (shown) can self-sow, and bees appreciate their flowers.
Fall offers a second lease on life for many edible gardens. Sometimes it’s even better for growing vegetables than summer. See what you can grow this autumn.Learn More