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September Planting for Northern California

We are so lucky to live in Northern California!  Well ... once we overlook the cost of living, traffic jams, and earthquakes anyway.  Our mild weather is one of the things often cited in the benefits of NorCal, and I agree -- because it means that we can continue to plant almost year round!

Even though we are now into our fall months, in California it is a bit more like a second Spring.  Most areas don't need to worry about their first frost date for a few months (click here for an interactive frost map), which means we have time to plant some beautiful flowers and tasty edibles to enjoy in late Fall and Winter.

Delicious Edibles

As with any planting, you will want to start with well-tilled, drained, and prepared soil for the best outcome.  A good mix of organic compost tilled into the top six inches will help these tasty veggies sing.  For simplicity and faster outcome, I would usually suggest seedlings at this time of year.  If you do not wish to grow your own seedlings in the Spring for transplant, companies like this have seedling options for you.  But if you prefer to grow from seed, there are many vegetable options as well.

A sample of delicious seedlings you can plant in September for Winter harvest

A sample of delicious seedlings you can plant in September for Winter harvest


Gardens along the coast will have the best luck with this sometimes temperamental plant, as it does best with consistently cool days - preferably in the 60s.  You will want a moist, loamy, nitrogen rich soil with a pH between 6.5 and 6.8 for the best outcome, and a minimum of six hours of direct sun per day.  If you want to maintain a pure white head, try the "blanching," which is a method of tying the green leaves over the young head.  SF Gate has a good article explaining the process.  In about two to three months, you will have your own fresh cauliflower, just in time for holiday recipes!  (Photo by Muffet)


Broccoli is another plant that thrives in cooler weather, making it a great item for coastal gardens.  However, if you live a little farther inland, you can take advantage of the heat-resistant Green Goliath  and Flash varieties.  You will get the best results from a moist, sandy, and slightly acidic soil, and access to full sun.  For harvesting, keep an eye out for the crown to become tight and firm - but if you see any yellow flowers, harvest right away! The best part about broccoli is that most varieties have side shoots.  So if you continue to care for the plant after you harvest the crown, you will still get to harvest the tasty side shoots for quite some time.  (Photo by Market Manager)


During warmer mild winters along the coast in the Bay Area, it is possible to continue growing spinach not only during the Fall, but part of the Winter as well.  While seedlings can be used, spinach seedlings will sometimes not live through the transfer.  Be very gentle with these little guys - or just grow from seed.  Spinach prefers a loamy, neutral soil, and full sun.  It is a great cool weather vegetable, because hot weather can make the plant "bolt," turning the greens bitter and inedible .  You can harvest as leaves become your preferred size, but in general smaller leaves will have a much better flavor.  (Photo by Oakley Originals)


Choosing a loose-leaf lettuce variety is beneficial in two ways: first, loose-leaf is easier to grow, and second, you can harvest enough leaves at a time for a meal and the plant will continue to grow.   Unlike many other greens, lettuce can handle some partial shade, though in cooler months it is better to allow lettuce full sun.  Lettuce prefers a moist, loamy, slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  Decent watering will help the plant grow a little faster, and faster grown lettuce often has a milder and sweeter taste. If planting from seed, you can expect to see full growth within two to two and a half months. But, you can feel free to begin harvesting leaves as soon as the leaves seem a good size. (Photo by Jacopo Werther)


Cabbage is definitely for more seasoned gardeners, because it can be more difficult to grow than many other options.  It is also considered a delicacy by many discerning pests, so frequent checks are necessary.  Cabbage does best in a sandy, loamy, neutral soil with a pH balance between 6.5 and 7.0.  Moisture is key, so cabbage will really benefit from a layer of mulch.  Placement of your cabbage seedlings is very important as well, because it has more foes than many others.  Be sure to grow it away from tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and cauliflower.  Lettuce, on the other hand, is a great companion.  Your cabbages will be ready to harvest in usually a little over two months, when the head is nice and firm.  Unlike many other plants, once you are done with your cabbages, you will want to remove the entire root system, because leaving it can cause pest infestations. (Photo by Biswarup Ganguly)


Next we will continue with what ornamental plants to get in the ground during Fall, with a focus on cool weather flowers that will bloom by the holiday season. 

We would also love to know what you like to plant during the Fall months!

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