Time to Plant Cool Season Vegetables and Herbs

Gary Matsuoka, owner of Laguna Hills Nursery, says: It's finally safe to plant your cool season flowers and vegetables. When the nights are cool and the days are short, there's just not enough time to heat up the soil.


Artichoke, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, cilantro, dill (best results planted in late winter), endive, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onion (seeds now, seedlings later), peas, radish, savory, spinach, strawberry, turnip. Most other herbs are fine to plant anytime of the year, however, sweet basil will die if exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees so grow it indoors November-April.

This week we have also brought in an assortment of natives. Since most don't appreciate the frequent irrigation required during summer installations, the first cool weather of fall is a better time. We now have Manzanita, Ceanothus, and a few others (Chilopsis, Erigeron, Dendromecon, Galvesia, Rhamnus). We also brought in quite a few other low water users (Acacia, Cupressus, Eremophila, Muhlenbergia, Westringia).

An intriguing concept was reintroduced to me last week that I'd like to pass on to you.

A farmer in Washington claims that he hasn't watered his orchard in decades due to the thick (1.5 foot) layer of wood chip mulch that covers the ground. His farm is located in an area that receives 20" of rain per year. Apple trees require 30-40" per year so how does this work?

Decades ago I listened to a lecture from a farmer that noticed that during an extended drought in Texas one side of a unirrigated highway was covered with mulch and not the other. The plants on the mulch covered side turned green, while the other side remained brown!

A soil scientist told me 20 years ago that his potted plants in pure pumice rock needed little irrigation despite the fact that pumice holds little moisture.

It rains at night in the redwood forests along our northern coast due solely to moisture condensing on the foliage.

The farmer in Washington got his idea from the forest around him. The ground under the trees is covered with a very thick layer of leaves, twigs, branches, cones and other dead things that typically collect on the forest floor. What he noticed, was that even though there was no rain, this layer ofduffwas quite wet. He observed that during the night, moisture from the air was condensing in the duff.

The soil scientist observed using a microscope that moisture was condensing within his container of pumice on the rock itself. He found that cool night air entered the bottom drain holes and deposited moisture on the surface of the cool rocks before exiting at the top.

It also happens in a thick layer of gravel.

Apparently any highly permeable (breathable) material that is cooler than the air will extract water.

Applying a very thick layer of mulch to create a duff layer may save (create) water as well as provide nutrition and stop weed growth. Any poor soil that is covered for several months with organic matter will become much more friable (rich and easy to till). Unfortunately, you probably have to redesign your beds to accommodate the mulch.

We'll discuss this further at our Saturday morning class this week.