Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Timing in your San Diego vegetable garden

I am reading lots of articles over the last couple of days regarding starting Fall crops but I will not be fooled again this year. Starting Fall crops may apply to the rest of the country but for those of us in the very southwest of the county, this rule does not apply. We still have another round of warm season coming to us.

Gidget says; "Rules are overrated."
The most important factor in San Diego to consider right now is how much sun the area you are planting in will receive over the next few months. If you know your property well enough, you should be able to determine how much sun each section of your garden will receive, throughout the year. This has been a two year discovery process for me, but now I think I have a grasp on how the sun will change in our north/south plot, throughout the year. We have sections that are full sun in the summer, yet get no sun at all in the winter. This is the first step to planning your year round San Diego growing season.Starting some Fall crops now for the areas that may get less sun makes sense. In your year round, full sun locations, you still have a limited window of opportunity to start more summer crops.

Our rooftop gets year round full sun
I am going to try to grow some warm season crops year round on our rooftop because it is in full sun all year long, and the rooftop stays warmer. It is yet to be seen if we will have tomatoes in January but I think we will.

Gidget is daydreaming about a mouse farm on the roof instead of year round tomatoes
I still have a lot of practice to do before I would be willing to say I know exactly how to use our climate to the fullest advantage, but I am certainly learning the general suggestions on seed packets, in catalogs, or in articles may not apply to Gidget's Garden. We have a longer warm season, and in some cases our cool season is not cool enough, like for magnificent raspberries. Of course not every rule applies every time, there are nice berries here, but it takes a specific variety and more care than growing berries in Washington state would.

This bed 2 weeks ago with bolting lettuce, chard, zucchini, and cucumbers
This bed gets full sun in summer and heavy partial sun during the rest of the year. I did well with lettuce and greens here during the winter and left some of those into early summer, partially because I wanted them on my sellers certificate, and partially because I think they are pretty when they bolt. The rest of the area is planted with zucchini and cucumbers that I started there in March. The plants were very productive but after four months, it was time to replace them  with the second round of warm season crops before the sun starts changing too much.

Newly planted bed, for second warm season
Zucchini on bottom right corner and in far left corner, along with  8 Big Bertha peppers, 1 Red Bell pepper, a Rio Grande pepper, and some various cucumbers. This bed will get at least 8 hours of full sun over the next few months.

Frijole suggests planting more beans.

Newer sunflowers, beans, and cucumbers
I put the sunflowers here a couple months ago, and they have been slow to take off, but they really seem to be coming along now. The sun changes on our plot are dramatic, this time of the year seems to be the best for maximizing sunlight in this specific place.Right now, it is full sun for most of the morning, then shaded like you see here for a little more than an hour, and then full sun again for the rest of the afternoon. Generally vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to be successful. I put some beans and cucumbers here over the weekend and they seem to be doing very well.

 Evaluating sunlight may not be as big an issue if you have wide open growing spaces but for urban farmers, sunlight can be a challenge. To maximize your growing space, it pays off to know where you have good sun on every inch of your property, during each time of the year. Pay special attention to the areas around walls and fences, knowing which is the sunnier side will help for planning edibles. 

Sunflower just blooming, started in April.
If you are in San Diego, or Phoenix, or in between, you should be successful with planting a whole new warm crop starting now. There is no reason why you cannot have sunflowers in the winter here, provided they are in full sun. The seed planting and seasonal  gardening advice that you generally read may not apply to this part of the country. I would suggest you experiment with extending the warm growing season. It is also a good time to start planning your Fall seeds, and even starting some of them, for those places on your plot that do not get full sun.

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