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14 November, 2010

Month By Month Planting Guide for Southern California: A 'Cheat Sheet'

These generalizations are for The Learning Garden, located in Sunset Zone 24, less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an alluvial plain that is just above sea level. Cold air from the surrounding hills drains into our area and we are reliably cooler than much of the surrounding areas. If you are growing inland from us, your temperatures fluctuate more than ours. As one gardens further from the ocean, the temperatures are less moderate and the effects of heat and cold are more pronounced. While we can grow some cool season crops year round (kale and chard come to mind first), this becomes more difficult without the ocean's pronounced influence. (Photo:  Bundles of fresh food are being sorted into individual packages for distribution with the Westside Produce Exchange for redistribution.)


Plant in the ground: lettuce, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, celeriac, radishes, spinach,
Plant in containers: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, (these last two can be started now, but they would have been better started earlier – their production will be reduced by the coming warmer weather), peas, fava beans, lentils, garbanzo beans


Plant in the ground: lettuce (and other salad greens), carrots, beets parsnips, radishes, spinach, purple beans,
Plant in containers: early tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, summer squash


Plant in the ground: purple beans, lettuce, radishes, purple beans, beets, radishes, spinach, set out plants of basil, early tomatoes, later in the month, sow early sweet corn,
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons, all squash,


Plant in the ground: beans of all colors, lettuce, radishes, beets, spinach, set out plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil, you can start planting all corn now
Plant in containers: tomatoes, basil, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, melons & squash, okra,


Plant in the ground: all basil, eggplant, all melons and all squash (including cucumbers, set out plants of same and all tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) green and yellow beans and all the dried beans; corn too, if you have room
Plant in containers: As in April, but it's getting late – peppers, eggplants and basil are still OK to start, but it's getting late, did I say it was getting late?


Plant in the ground: all the above, but it's getting late... you can still get a crop, but it will be cut shorter by any early cool weather; the last of the corn can go in early in the month
Plant in containers: after starting pumpkin seeds, take a nap


Plant in the ground only out of necessity – extreme necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping


Plant in the ground: nothing if you can avoid it
Plant in containers: towards the end of the month, in a shaded location, the first of the winter veggies can be started, cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, fava beans, leeks, shallots, onions...


Plant in the ground: nothing, until late in the month, start sowing turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets and carrots – keep seeds moist! Peas, lentils and garbanzo beans can be sown...
Plant in containers: Cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, favas, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts,


Plant in the ground: by now you can begin to set out some of your cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, chard and so on. Continue with seeds as above... you can also direct sow favas if you want. Potatoes can usually be found about now as well as sets or seed bubls of onions, garlic and shallots and they all should be planted from now until late November.
Plant in containers: More Cruciferae and favas, celery and celeriac,


Plant in the ground: More of September's plants can be sown – you still have time for all of them except onions, this will be the last month to plant peas, lentils, garbanzos, shallots, garlic and fava beans. Their growing season is too long to get the harvest you would want. Although the legumes can be planted if you are willing to take a lesser harvest or are using them as a cover (green manure) crop.
Plant in containers: I'm still sowing cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, but Brussels sprouts are a longer season item so they're not a part of my efforts until next season's planting begins.


Plant in the ground: Too little light and too many parties make it difficult to find garden time – but if you have some things left over from November, try to get that done.
Plant in containers: Pretty much the same story, if you have time, do more of all that's listed from November.

There are two big shifts in Southern Californian gardening: At the end of September, beginning of October it's all about the winter crops. At the end of February, beginning of March, the focus all shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds get started slightly before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks before then!). 



  1. Hi,

    Great blog. Thanks for taking the time.

    I've recently discovered the joys of growing peas. I live in Iowa. We've got arguably the best soil in America, but some of the worst weather. Having been a long-time California gardener, I was amazed at how fast vegetables grow in the summer here. It's ridiculous. The soil and moisture in the late spring and summer are just amazing.

    Anyway, I'm visiting my parents for a good month in mid-to-late December. They live in Eagle Rock (near Pasadena). Is there any point in starting peas outdoors in the ground at that time. I was thinking of ordering "Alaska" the most cold hardy pea I've come across. As you know, northeast LA can get December highs in the 80s but also frosts.

    Anyways, I think my parents would get a kick out of growing them. Typically, if I don't plant things for them, they don't get grown, so I'd love to start peas on December 19th and take some measures to raise the soil temperature a few degrees.

    Any thoughts?


  2. Hi Tom, (sorry this didn't go up sooner - I must have missed the notification that I had a comment.)

    I love to eat peas and Alaska is a fine variety. Cold air drains down and typically the only real frost of any note in Los Angeles, even in Eagle Rock, is in areas where cold air can sink and pool. Cold air - even freezing cold air - just moving by, won't hurt peas. But if it can pool around the plants, it can cause some damage. If they live at the bottom of a canyon, you might want to wait. Even if they are on the side of a canyon, if your plants will be next to a solid wall that would trap cold air, I'd advise caution.

    On the other hand, we have winters galore with only minimal cold; and in my garden I have seen that a raised bed of six inches is often high enough to prevent frost damage. All things considered, if the cold air can drain away, I would go for it.

    And you know, there is no pea worth eating like a fresh pea! Your parents will love them and might be one of the best presents you can give them, besides coming out for the holidays!

    Thanks for asking!


  3. Thank you, thank you for this post! Just signed up for my community garden and wanted to see what I could still plant down by the beach. I am using your blog post as a reference on my Google Calendar for planting. Thank you!

  4. Thank you, thank you! I just joined my local community garden and wanted to find out what I could still plant down by the beach. Also, I am using your blog post as a guide for my planting Google Calendar. Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for this blog. I just started my community garden plot, which is just blocks from the beach in Santa Monica. Is there anything that I can still plant this late in the year? We are in the first week of November. Any Thoughts?

  6. Hi, just as it says, you can plant anything in November that is listed for September. My garden is only a little further inland than yours and I'll bet there is very little difference. You might have more fog and moisture than I do, but not much. You'll be able to keep planting cool weather plants all through to about March. The challenge is on the other side; like getting ripe tomatoes that taste really good!

  7. Thank you for your post! Just moved to LA a few months ago and am getting excited about planning my plot. (I've only planted mint so far, because I knew it would do well. So lovely to make fresh lemonade with lemons and mint from the garden in January. A summer treat for a midwestern girl like me!)

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  9. Everyone - look for a new expanded version of this post and also make a point of seeing the post for each month as that will give you the up-to-date current info on what to do. SylJay -I'm from KS myself and a big reason I decided to put this information out there is because of the struggles I went thru getting to be the SoCal expert I am today. All of my posts should give you data you want and need for growing food here in SoCal... Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting!! I love feedback! (A lot of this writing takes place in a void. I write, post it and have NO IDEA if anyone reads it or finds it useful. I THINK they do, but until you write me, I have no clue.)

  10. Hi David! Thanks for this post! We just moved to Temecula from Michigan (what a change) and am really anxious to start gardening but felt completely clueless about what I could plant. Do you have any suggestions considering I'm further inland than you? Thanks again! P.S. I, too, am a blogger and I totally understand what you mean by writing in a void! ( - not that I've been updating it lately with the move.)

    1. Hey Rachel, welcome to California! I understand the shock, I came here from Kansas. So, hike down the library or bookstore and find the Sunset Western Garden guide. Figure out what Sunset Zone you are in from the front of the book. Write me back with that data and we'll translate my growing experience into some useful pointers for you. Won't be exactly that easy, but it'll put you a lot closer to understanding your growing season! Thanks for reading and writing! david

  11. Hi and thank you for posting this awesome cheat sheet! I was in the middle of the painstaking process of creating my own (for home use :) when I stumbled across yours - it's exactly the simple type of list I needed! Thank you again and I am greatly looking forward to catching an upcoming seminar!

  12. This is so helpful! We are new gardeners also living in zone 24, working on our raised beds, compost pile, fruit trees, etc. Are there any particular resources in LA you recommend for newbies? Thanks again!

  13. I teach monthly gardening class at the Learning Garden ( - look at the calendar) on the first Saturday of each month. Also look at the many permaculture groups and transition town groups in LA - they often have gardening classes or lectures too - Culver City Garden club has good speakers monthly as well as many other clubs in the LA area.

    Most of my work right now is leading to a book, Growing Food In Southern California. It should be out sometime this century.


  14. I've sprouted some peas and beans (Kentucky Pole Beans, Snap Peas, and Fava Beans) and I've been growing them inside in 4" pots. Is it okay to transplant them now outside? I live in Decker Canyon 2 miles up from the beach.

    1. Hi Bibi, depends! The Kentucky Pole Beans really would rather have waited until towards the end of March - they are a warm season bean - if we get an early spring, you'll look like a genius! I'd hold the inside until mid-March at least.

      The peas and favas are cool season plants and will survive UNLESS we get really hot weather. I start mine in fall and both are producing right now. Get them out ASAP and they'll probably still produce a crop no matter what happens - although they'll put out more as long as the weather is cooler. (Peas, favas and lentils can take temps in the 40's and still produce, but will not be happy at temps on the high end of 70.)

      Thanks for reading!


    2. Sorry for the typos - this computer just cannot spell. Bibi - plant out purple beans if you want to get an early crop of beans in - they will grow fine in wet and damp soil - which is what we SHOULD have these days.


  15. It’s amazing in support of me to truly have a blog site, which will be valuable meant for my knowledge. Thanks admin.

  16. WOW thank you so much for this list. I moved to Redondo Beach in May and have been figuring out what to grow through trial and error. With the list above, are you planting seeds directly in the ground/containers, or starting transplants indoors in advance. Thank you!

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  18. Thanks for all the great info! I also live just above sea level, about 1 mile from the water, and your info is very useful. You're working in less of a vacuum than you think.... Get that book done! Thanks

  19. Hi, all! I have to say I'm just dreadfully frustrated with my vege gardens in the Eagle Rock area; had one good year and in the many years since then....I guess it's all just trial and error, but I've finally learned to dig out almost ALL the dirt and replace with mulch, compost, wood ash, etc.

    A watering test on the soil shows it runs through completely in less than 5 minutes; my feeling is it's all sand until you hit a very hard clay. Very low in phosphorous; have to use tons of bone meal.

    Fortunately, it's good for my mental health, cause I'm sure not getting much to eat.

    Has anybody had trouble with things like melons, corn and okra? It seems to me these things grow better in places where it stays hot gets so cool here in the evenings...

    Also, have your peppers and tomatoes lasted through the winter? I've finally got lots of good ones in pots, but am worried about losing them...any ideas? I've got so many that building a greenhouse would be impossible...


  20. Hey David!

    This is awesome, thanks so much for putting this together! I know you included melon on here, but do you have a similar list for fruits, or is it pretty much safe to say that you should start the seedlings in early spring?


  21. Great list, this is just what I was looking for! I am a teacher and we have a garden at school. I want to get my students involved in the garden this year and will use this list. I live in Hawthorne, about 2 miles from the beach. What is the best time to plant citrus trees? I want to plant a lemon and clementine tree in my yard. I know bare root trees should go in around January, but I'm thinking that if I can find bigger trees, I'd like to put those in. Also, do you know where to find grafting pitch that comes in a can, not a spray? I have a nectarine tree that keeps sprouting branches on the bottom even though I prune said branches and use the spray type of pitch. I remember my father using a product that came in a green can. Thanks so much!

  22. great bloh, thanks for sharing this useful information,

  23. Great information David! Would you mind if I included your planting recommendations for January and February in my monthly newsletter for my clients? I am a realtor in Long Beach/Orange County and like to include tips localized for this area. How do you like your work to be cited? Thanks!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Brittany, you may use this citing this blog's address. List me as the author and include that I am the author of the soon-to-be-published "Growing Food In Southern California; What To Do And When To Do It." Thank you. david

  24. Hey David,
    Will El Nino be a factor for you this year? Doing anything different in your garden because of it?