I’ve been reading “what to plant for fall” stories since August. In some ways I’m jealous of people who can start their fall garden in late summer, but it’s not an option here in the San Diego county foothills. By August the sun is directly overhead and it hasn’t rained in four months or more. The ground is hot and dry, the air is hotter and drier. All the natives drop their leaves and other plants, even mature, well-watered ones, wilt. And the greenhouse is basically an air fryer, so the only things in there are cacti and succulents.
The baking usually continues through the end of September when the longer nights finally let cool, damp air off the ocean seep inland and put a lid on the day’s heat. Then I can get the fall gardens started. This year the magic date was September 29th.
First Things First – Plant for Thanksgiving
Since I started two months later than a lot of others, I planted edible stuff that can be harvested before the holidays first. Thanksgiving is 60 days from September 29 (late this year), so (theoretically) I should have time to sprout, transplant and harvest a bunch of fast growers like herbs, lettuces and spinach, while also getting a running start at broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages which grow without too much help in what we call “winter” here.
Because there’s lots of critters and varmits in the garden right now, rather than starting the seeds outdoors, I did it in the greenhouse. It’s still pretty hot in the daytime, but I figure can shade the trays until the seedlings have a good start.
The fall veggie and herb seeds in their trays
Here’s what I planted sorted by days to harvest:
- Leaf Lettuce – All Star Lettuce Mix (40 days)
All purpose leaf lettuce mix. Pick and eat all season long.
- Basil – Italian Large Leaf (40 days)
Basil is a staple around here, so we try and grow it year-round. Large leaf seems to do better than other varieties in the fall.
- Garlic Chives – Geisha (40 days)
We always need chives especially with all the potatoes we eat. I should plant more.
- Spinach – Space (45 days)
Fresh greens! Resistant to pretty much everything and reliable grower in fall and early winter (not so much in spring and summer).
- Parlsey – Garden Variety (45 days)
A volunteer that’s been growing here so long that I don’t know what type it is. It’s a biennial and it all went to seed this year. Even though it usually produces lots of volunteers on its own, I’m hedging my bet just in case.
- Chinese Cabbage – Minuet (48 Days)
This one has a mild cabbage flavor so it can sub in for lettuce in a pinch. Gets only about 9-inches tall and stays crispy for a long time. Great for stir fry.
- Dill – Mammoth (40-50 Days)
Another one of those “must have” flavorings around here. Along with those Max Pack cukes, we’ll have plenty of dill pickles and gyros with fresh tzatziki sauce.
- Pea – Tom Thumb (40-50 Days)
Heirloom variety with small plants and big peas. Except for the dead of winter when temps dip below freezing, it handles our winters very well.
- Cilantro – Santo (50-55 days)
Another flavoring we can always use. Great fresh as well as seed for everything from soups and salsa to pulled pork and brisket.
- Cucumber – Max Pack (55 Days)
A pickling cucumber that’s also good fresh. This variety produces a lot very quickly, so with a little mulch to keep its feet warm, I should have a good supply by Thanksgiving.
- Romaine Lettuce – Green Forest (56 Days)
Romaine is hit or miss with me, but since they grow it commercially all winter around here, I’m hoping I can too. Salads with romaine are awesome.
- Cauliflower – Bishop (70 Days)
White cauliflower. Does well in the fall around here. Love to take these whole, drizzle them with olive oil and lemon juice and bake them. Delicious.
- Broccoli – Imperial (71 Days)
My go to among brassicas. Produces nice big heads even in prolonged cold, gray weather. We’ll probably have some with Christmas dinner.
- Cabbage – Ruby Perfection (75 Days)
Red ball cabbage. Some people actually use it as a landscape plant, but I use it for coleslaw. Football playoffs and brats require it.
Once everybody was seeded, I watered and covered them with wet burlap to provide shade and maintain moisture while they germinate. We should be seeing the first seedlings in a week or so (fingers crossed).
Seed trays covered with burlap to keep them shady and moist
Up Next – Clean up and Cuttings
With the fall seeding out of the way, it’s time to move on to the end of season round-up of spent plants and pots, and unearthing the big trimmers to regain control of several areas that the trees and vines have taken over these past few months. I’ll get to that next.