Early Spring Garden Crops For Mild Climates
Hello! This week’s post is going to be a little shorter and more picture heavy than last week’s post on Growing Chamomile in the Garden. Essentially, I’d like to discuss the early spring garden here in my part of Southern California, and some of the fun things that have been happening behind the scenes. If you have any questions about early spring gardening, what to start, etc. that I don’t answer, then feel free to leave a comment below!
Related article: Cold Hardy Annual Herbs
A Garden Update
Remember those seedlings we planted out last September-October? They have been feeding us throughout the Winter, filling our plates with roasted veggies and salads, but now they are basically bolted and/or harvested—-leaving empty areas in the garden. This is the natural progression of the garden as we move from Fall/Winter crops into Early Spring crops, and I’ve been carefully noting the empty areas of our raised beds to assess what’s next. Here are some of the things we’ve been enjoying from our Fall and Winter garden:
But what is the Early Spring season in zone 10b?
Honestly, early spring is probably one of the most fleeting, unpredictable, and challenging seasons in my garden. Early spring garden crops don’t have it easy because you never know how quickly we are going to heat up. There’s potential for frost, combined with fluctuating temperatures that hint at Summer. In fact, we traditionally have a “false Spring” where it appears warm enough to plant out tender plants and then a frost sweeps through suddenly. Of course, you can utilize a variety of gardening tools to extend your growing seasons—-like the fabric row covers or shade mesh discussed HERE—but it’s just good to know that you aren’t alone if the Spring garden feels challenging. I tend to treat the early spring garden as a “bonus” or “shoulder” season where I can try new things, grow some quick-growing crops, and basically bridge the gap between the Winter garden and Summer garden.
In anticipation for many of my Fall and Winter crops being done, I started a small round of early spring crops in my garage using last year’s indoor seed starting setup. Here’s a little picture of what’s currently growing indoors:
What are some good early spring crops for mild climates?
Although my garage already has a seed tray of early spring crops going, I’m going to need to start more! Aside from the empty spots I already see, it’s now time to check the garden and pull anything that is bolted, diseased, or simply not providing anymore. For example, here are some photos of other spots in the garden that will soon need new plants for early spring:
Ideally, early spring crops for southern California gardens would be anything that can mature in 30-90 days and enjoy cooler weather. Again, I just simply can’t predict how long the spring weather will last, and I don’t want to get stuck with things that take up space for Summer plants and never produce. Some of my favorite options are: any leafy greens (especially joi choi, tatsoi, kale and spinach), my favorite lettuces, sugar snap/snow peas, cold hardy herbs, green onions, swiss chard, and beets. I’ve linked any articles on my blog that pertain to those crops. This weekend I’m starting one more tray of early spring crops using Epic Seed Cells, re-using my watering trays (until I get the matching Epic universal bottom trays), and planting in my DIY seed start mix.
While I’ve started some early spring crops indoors, there are also many that can directly sown outdoors. For example, cool weather crops like edible peas, lettuce mixes, carrots, and various radishes/daikon can be sown directly into your garden and mature relatively quickly.
Related Article: 5 Herbs to NOT Start From Seed
If you’re a Southern California gardener, don’t forget that subscribers have access to my personal seed starting schedule. You can find this document in my Garden Resources Library (the link is at the bottom of every newsletter). I’m a firm believer in following local gardeners and sharing information. Therefore, this document continually gets updated as I learn more and track my seed starting/planting times. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great guideline for fellow zone 10b gardeners, especially in Orange County/LA/SD.
Why I start early spring crops indoors
You may have noticed that I keep saying that early spring crops are “cool weather” crops, so why am I starting them indoors? These crops all traditionally enjoy cool weather and have a degree of frost tolerance, but starting them indoors can help them grow to transplant-size faster. Essentially, most seeds germinate best in temperatures between 65-75 degree, so by keeping my seeds in a controlled environment (see my indoor seed starting setup), they will reach the transplanting stage much faster. Yes, I do need to harden off my seedlings before planting them in the garden, but it will be worth it.
In lieu of a indoor seed starting setup, you could keep your seeds indoors until they germinate. Once they germinate, you’d have to bring them outside for light during the day and be wary of frosts when your seedlings are babies. With less daylight hours and colder temperatures they will grow slower, but they will grow! Alternatively, you could stick with only direct sowing quick-growing crops.
Other garden happenings
As we head into early Spring, there are other things I think about to plan ahead for the hotter months. For example, I’d like to increase the number of perennial flowers in my garden without having to buy more at the nursery, so that takes some pre-planning. To accomplish this, I delved deeper into propagation. Check out some of the plants that are currently propagating in my indoor starting station:
Honestly, I have never propagated during the cold months before, but this why I am utilizing my indoor seed starting station. The seedling heat mats are awesome for encouraging root growth, and I simply use my DIY seed start mix and a bunch of different six pack cells for my cuttings. Furthermore, I tried a brand new propagation technique that utilizes root cuttings (from the actual root system!) to create more plants. My root cuttings are in the flat trays you see in the photos (I’m trying out echinacea and Verbascum this way). Once I have gone through the whole process, I’ll happily share the experience with you all if you’re interested.
Lastly, another way I’m prepping for the hotter months is to purchase my Summer seeds. Truth be told, it’s too early for me to be starting Summer crops, but it isn’t too early to order them. In fact, many seeds sell out early so make sure to get your orders in (if you need reliable seed sources you can use my list)! I haven’t planned the Summer garden yet, so that will be a high priority in the coming weeks.