06 July, 2013

The Southern California Cheat Sheet: A Month by Month List of What To Plant and When

Here is a revised 'cheat sheet.'  

These are all generalizations and they apply to The Learning Garden, located in Sunset Zone 24, less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean in an alluvial plain that is barely above sea level. Cold air from the surrounding higher elevations drains into our area and we are reliably cooler than much of the surrounding areas.

If you are growing inland from us, your temperatures will fluctuate more than ours. The further from the ocean a person gardens, the temperatures become 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 for example), this becomes more difficult without the ocean's pronounced influence.

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
Otherwise: You are looking in seed catalogs and reading books to figure out which tomatoes, peppers, beans and other summer crops you will be planting. You will order too many seeds despite promises to yourself to not do it this year.

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
Otherwise: If you haven't over-ordered your seeds for summer yet, get busy. You're not playing by the rules.

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
Otherwise: You can begin to think about your cool season seeds now. Get out them catalogs and prepare to over-order those!

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...
Otherwise: You DO have your cool season seeds ordered, yes?

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,
Otherwise: Get your garlic bulbs, shallot bulbs and onion sets ordered – don't wait – they sell out!

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 bulbs 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: 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, start of October it's all about the winter crops. At the end of February, start of March, the focus all shifts to summer and the heat lovers. Seeds are started before then (if you have the right conditions, up to six weeks). 


  1. Thank you for this. We are copying this for our people. i hope you do not mind.http://enrichla.org/

  2. I just posted on Camarillo Seed Library with a credit to your brillance! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  3. Thank you David. This is great especially since the heat is telling me to do nothing now too! I shared on FB with a credit to your brillance.

    1. Why did I not see this before, Camarillo? Thank you! I so appreciate your support!

  4. I have a suggestion to add to your list.
    JANUARY - Resume fertilizing fruit trees.
    APRIL - Resume watering fruit trees
    JUNE - Give fruit trees their last feeding for the year. (JULY withhold fruit tree feedings for the rest of the year.)
    JUNE-OCTOBER - Following harvest. withhold water from fruit trees for the rest of the year to induce dormancy. Five or so rainy days should be enough to sustain them until January.

  5. Hi Mama, Thanks for your comments. I would not recommend fertilizing because I eschew fertilizing altogether. There are very few circumstances where one can justify killing the microbial action in the soil and almost all fertilizers do just that. And usually November through April is our so-called wet season so we usually stop watering then anyway because that's when it rains here in Southern California.

    1. Wow, I didn't realize fertilizing killed microbes? Does that include organic fertilizing by means of soy meal, corn meal, alfalfa meal, etc?
      Thank you for your amazing list.

    2. It either 'kills' them or makes the soil inhospitable to them. Whatever fertilizer does, it seems to lower the biological activity of the soil. The jury is still. While I don't use fertilizer (except rock dust and a rare dose of fish emulsion) I encourage everyone to cut WAY back on fertilizer to practically zero. I can see some soils (sandy especially that will not hold nutrients) might need to use some fertilizers, but most soils with any clay will be better off with close to none.

  6. Dear David,

    I am in Santa Clarita, zone 9b. We currently plant seedlings that we buy from farmer's market or store but I would really like to grow my own from seed to harvest. Your list is the best, most direct one that I have found - especially for a beginner - thank you! Are there any modifications that you would suggest for my specific zone? Our last frost was March 21-30. Any tips and advice would be greatly appreciated! My goal is to begin a great garden that would eventually supply us yea-round with fruits and vegetables but it's difficult figuring out where to begin. Thank you so much!

  7. Dear David, Thank you for this amazing list! We currently plant pre-grown seedlings but I am trying to educate myself on how to grow our own - from seed to harvest. It's very difficult to know where to begin:) We are in Santa Clarita, zone 9b and our last frost date was March 21-30. Would you suggest any modifications to the above list for our area? I would also like to move over to an olla irrigation system since we are in severe drought and our soil is so dry. Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

  8. Hi Courtney, thank you for your kind words - a lot of effort went into that list. So you have frost and I have none. That is going to change your calculations a bit. Garlic and onions, covered in soil, will not change, they will survive a frost as will kale. Brussles sprouts are cold hardy too. These I know off the top of my head, but find your Sunset Western Garden Zone and sent it to me, I'll come up with some more detailed information for you! Thanks for being a reader. david

  9. Hello, would you please give some suggestions about what to plant with my kindergarten class when school begins in mid-August? We are up in View Park, zone 10b, and have 15 "pockets" hanging on the schoolyard fence. They face South-ish and get lots of morning/midday sun, but afternoon sun is blocked by a building. We have drip watering on a timer. It doesn't really matter what we plant- food, flower or weed - it would just be nice to have something grow for our first time. Then when things don't grow later in the year, we have fond memories. I appreciate your input, the lack of options hurts my head.

    1. Those pockets are really water intensive and I dislike them because of it - the permeable pocket allows a LOT of water to be evaporated off into the atmosphere - prolly not the best idea when we have such a drought going on. If you can get into some soil, radishes are great - especially for children, as they grow in about 28 days. Turnips are also fast, but what child likes turnips. If you must, try smaller plants like bush beans. Later in the year, grow garbanzo beans or lentils combined with a lesson on where they come from... Peas will do well, and might even survive frosts depending on where your pockets are located - because they are raised off the ground and cold air sinks, they might not frost at all, unless you get a severe one. Check your location against Sunset Western Garden Guide's zones - that will tell me and you a lot more about your growing season. Thanks for reading!

    2. I would like to suggest you plant at least one Milkweed. Has nice flowers, makes seed that are attached to "down" like dandelions fly in the wind, but the greatest thing is it is a host plant for the endangered Monarch Butterfly. The kids can watch them grow from egg to adult on one plant. You can bring the caterpillars inside, feed them, and watch them make a cocoon then emerge as a butterfly.

  10. Thanks for the very helpful cheat sheet! Do you have any seed vendors in particular you recommend?

  11. justjann, try this page: http://www.lagardenblog.com/2007/09/15-sept-handout-short-list-of-seed.html

    Hope that helps!


  12. thanks for the list--it is helpful as I always seem to be too late on planting. I'm in Burbank--sunset zone 20--do you have any suggested changes to the list? and one question for January. you say you can plant brocolli in containers, but I don't see when to set them out? Do I keep them in containers? Thanks!

  13. Hi David,

    I just came across your list and have a couple of questions. I do all of my gardening in containers because of apartment living in Laguna Hills. I bought Brussel Sprout seeds because everything I read said they were slow sprouters and would take about a month to sprout. Well, I planted six seeds in my aerogarden, knowing it would speed up the process a bit, thinking it would give me time to grow inside before I found a suitable container for the strongest couple of plants. Imagine my surprise when the next morning I came out too look and ALL of them sprouted. That was last week. They're still small. About 3.5 inches. My experiment is speeding up on me. I thought I would sprout them and put the little seeds in small pots indoors until August or September. At this rate, they're going to be ready to pick in September.

    Thanks so much for any suggestions. I hate to chuck them all and just wait until September to start all over.


  14. Hi David - former UCLA Extension student here; I manage the school farm at Hancock Park Elementary School in Los Angeles (Beverly/Grove area). To conform with the school year, we have been in the practice of having a 1st semester planting - then winter break - then a 2nd semester planting. With the new heat paradigm that seems to be upon us, I feel hesitant about putting any seeds in the ground at all until October, or even November.

    Have your views changed regarding your month-by-month planting guide for SoCal?

    all the best-

    Mark Harelik

  15. in ground timing: do you mean seeds or seedlings?