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Labor Day Weekend is upon us! Perfect time for fall planting!

Companion Planting - Carrots with Cabbage

Planting faster growing carrots among slow growing cabbages is pure genius!
Beautiful image – From Dirt to Dinner, Julianne Idleman

Take a look at this DigitalSeed Vegetable Planting Schedule – This table lists the recommended times to sow vegetable seeds for the typical Southern California climate (Zones 23-24). When buying transplants, remember to adjust for the age of the plant (about 1-2 months).

Notice August is not their favorite planting time, yet many consider that to be the first SoCal plant-from-seed fall planting month.  Others say it is just too hot and there is often a hot time at the end of August and Labor Day weekend!  If you want specific varieties, you plant from seed.  Plant them in a ‘nursery’ area in the shade of finishing summer plants, and it’s the law to keep them moist.  If you plant successively, and started in August, to keep fresh table supply, a batch every month or so, then do your second planting now in September!  Likely days will start cooling, but you are taking advantage of a fast start because your plants will grow quickly in the warmer weather than later on.  Notice, in the list above, the big difference between Sep and Oct!  Oct is when to plant from transplants – hopefully you started your favorites you can’t get from the nursery from seed!  If not, then get what you get from the nursery – try special ordering if they don’t have what you want on hand.

My thinking on the DigitalSeed list:

  • Unless you are in a hot spot, and have plenty of space to accomodate a bad weather ‘error,’ planting even bush beans, summer squash, is chancy in Sep.  At least plant earliest in Sep, hope for an Indian Summer.
  • Beets, Broccoli, Brussell’s Sprouts, are a big yes!  And carrots, celery, leeks!
  • Colorful Chard is the ‘flower’ of your winter garden!  Mid August is one of the best times, Sep certainly is good too!  Marigold don’t mind cool days; lovely on a dark day.
  • Plant more heat tolerant lettuces.
  • It is so easy to sprout peas! Dampen the paper towel, spray the towel to keep it moist.  Pop them into the garden by the trellis – if it is hot, devise some shade for them.

September is Seed Saving time!  Keep watch so the birds don’t get them all first!
Make notes on how your plants did, which varieties were the most successful.
Make your fall planting beds extra yummy – add compost, worm castings, manures.  We want rich soil for those big plants.  We want lots of those marvelous leaves for greens.  Winter plants like brocs, collards, cauliflower, chard, are heavy producers, need plenty of food.  BUT NOT CARROTS!  Too good a soil makes them hairy and they fork.  And, over watering, irregular watering, can make them split.
Build your beds up so they drain well, are above the coldest air that settles low down.
Plant your September seeds outdoors a tad deeper than you would in spring; soil is moister and cooler an extra inch or two down.
Keep letting your strawberry runners grow for Oct harvest.
Plant Sweet Peas for Christmas bloom!  Plant gift plants or bowls or baskets for the holidays!

I like what Better Homes & Gardens has to say – ‘Sown in September, sprinters such as arugula, mustard, spinach, turnips, and crispy red radishes are ready to pick in little more than a month.  Also try pretty Asian greens, such as tatsoi or mizuna, which grow so fast that you will have baby plants to add to stir-fries and soups just three weeks after sowing.’  If you would enjoy a quick payback on your table, select the earliest maturing varieties available.

Brassica Companions (that’s your broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, B-sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, collards, turnips):  Aromatic plants like sage, dill, chamomile.  Carrots, chard, beets, peppermint, rosemary, celery, onions, potatoes, spinach, dwarf zinnias.  Brassicas are helped by geraniums, dill, alliums (onions, shallots, garlic, etc), rosemary, nasturtium, borage.  Dill attracts a wasp to control cabbage moth.  Zinnias attract lady bugs to protect plants.  Avoid mustards, nightshades, strawberries.  Notice there are contradictions – potatoes are in the nightshade family.

COMPANIONS!  Cabbage babies need to be planted 12 to 28″ apart!  A healthy plant will take up much closer to that 28″.  They take a long while to grow, head, head tight!  Plant carrots, or other fillers, that mature sooner, in the space between them. You can do this at home amongst your ornamentals, and/or in containers too!  Fillers can be onion/chive types to repel Bagrada Bugs, beets.  Short quickest growing winter radishes can be among the long slower growing carrots among the slowest growing, your cabbages.

Brassicas are the very favorite of Bagrada Bugs.  Keep a keen watch for them and for aphids.  Lengthwise curling leaves, and lots of ants, are the giveaways for aphids.  They come in fat gray or small black.  Avoid over watering that makes for soft plants, tender leaves that aphids thrive on.  Spray the aphids away.  Get up under those leaves, and fervently do the tender growth tips.  Do it consistently until they don’t come back.

Favas?  Oh, yes!  They are a legume and put Nitrogen in your soil.  Plant them where you had summer’s heavy feeders like corn, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes or where you will plant heavy feeders next summer.  Delicious favas are loCal, high in protein, iron and fiber. The tender tops are a wonderful steamed green. They become green manure when you chop them when they first flower, and till them into your soil. They are a great winter cover crop, producing one of the highest rates of compostable organic material per square foot!

Pests and Diseases  Drench young plants, ones you just transplanted, with Aspirin solution to get them off to a great start!  Add a quarter cup non-fat powdered milk to the mix too!

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