Broccoli, cabbages, garlic, most root crops like carrots and beets, should be planted now.
By Sharon McCray
With autumn here, it is time to put some thought into what crops you’ll want for the winter. It’s a good time to look into your seed box and see what you grew last year and might want to plant now. Most winter crops prefer warm soil to germinate but cooler soil in which to grow but not suffer on hot days.
It is always difficult for me to decide what to pull to make room for new plants. Usually the zucchini are the first to go as they are not a real favorite. Onions and garlic might have left your ground barren and sometimes it is just best to let the soil rest. A light application of horse or chicken manure on fallow ground will create an ideal spot for winter crops later in the season.
The Master Gardeners have a great publication that highlights varieties of winter vegetables that do well in Santa Clara County and were preferred in local taste tests.
Broccoli, cabbages, garlic, most root crops like carrots and beets, should be planted now. There are some unique planting techniques for certain vegetables, and you will have better success if you learn what they are.
My preference is to direct sow beets and carrots. I mix the seeds with a gallon or so of potting soil and scatter the seeds that way. Beet seeds stick together so planting them can be challenging. Mixing radish seeds with these root crops will help with keeping the plants from crowding each other.
The term “onion sets” refers to onion seeds that have germinated and are growing plants. This is a good way to buy onions and using a pencil to make planting holes for each plant is easy and practical. Onions grow all winter and are usually ready to harvest in the late spring.
You will know when to harvest because the plant will produce a flower head, which should be cut off so all the energy will go into the bulb. At this point, do not apply any water. Onions grown from seed will provide a better selection and, overall, will not take much longer to be ready to harvest than those grown from sets.
Broccoli is a unique vegetable and most gardeners believe if the leaves of different broccoli plants touch each other the harvest will be adversely affected. I have no proof but I space mine well apart just to be safe.
Now is the best time to plant strawberries but having access to plants can be challenging. They overwinter without too much trouble and with the first hint of spring fruit will be ready to harvest. The University of California did extensive research on strawberry varieties in Santa Clara because the conditions — including soil and weather — are conducive to good production.
Carrots are easy to grow but require constant moisture. Once the seeds are planted, make sure to keep the soil moist.
If the seedlings or plants become stressed because of lack of water, growth will stop or your carrots will be spindly and odd looking
Next month’s focus will be perennials and ornamental plants followed by bulbs and fruit trees in the months to come.
Listen to tips and advice on the “Old Time Farm and Garden Show,” from 10 a.m. to noon the fourth Thursday of the month on KKUP 91.5 FM.
Sharon McCray is a California native living in Santa Clara County since 1959. She became certified as a University of California cooperative extension master gardener in 1992 and a UCCE master naturalist in 2015. She hosts a radio show on KKUP public radio and is now retired.