Home / monthly planting guide for vegatables / When to plant your vegetables: A monthly guide

When to plant your vegetables: A monthly guide

Overview:

In honor of summer solstice, this article will outline:

  • Some historical background about the best time to plant crops.
  • A monthly fruit & vegetable planting guide for Southern California.

 

The amazing cherokee tomato

The amazing Cherokee tomato

 

Summer Solstice:

As our ancestors transitioned from hunter-gather tribes to farmers, it became increasingly important to understand what was going on with the weather.  The major factor for seasonal crop success (then and now) is temperature.  If you plant too early, then frost will kill your plants. Plant too late and they won’t have enough time to develop before the growing season is over.

Without digital watches or online calendars, the early agrarian societies looked to patterns in the sky as a guide.  All kinds of celestial objects were tracked and given various levels of importance. However, the biggest and most important object in our sky has always been the sun.

Monuments around the world were built to track the patterns of the sun at important transition-points marking the seasons.  For many of these ancient creations, sunlight passed through custom-designed openings to illuminate specific areas at important times.  The longest day of the year (the summer solstice) was one of those important days that guided the early farmers to the fields.

(FYI: The science of studying this prehistoric understanding is pretty interesting and is called archaeoastronomy).

Stonehenge at Summer Solstice

Stonehenge at Summer Solstice

Mediterranean Climate:

We are blessed in Southern California with our Mediterranean climate and the longer than average growing season.  As a result, there is something you can plant at any month of the year. However, the length of the day and atmospheric temperature continue to be critically important factors for the specific plant you can successfully cultivate at different times of the year.

For delicate plants, we still have cold enough weather in the winter to get an occasional killing frost. For other crops, hot temps can cause a plant to bolt into flowering and seed before they produce the food we want.  To find out your exact growing zone (anywhere in the U.S.) and what to expect, check out my earlier article, Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?

Chinese cabbage (Bok Choy) bolting to make flowers before it is ready to eat. When the plant puts its energy into flowering it becomes much less tasty.

Picture of Chinese cabbage (Bok Choy) flowering. The plant is bolting (flowering) before it is ready to eat because it got hot outside. When the plant puts its energy into flowering it’s leaves become much less tasty.

 

After Cilantro flowers, the rest of the plant dies. Therefore, a major goal is to prevent flowering for as long as you can.

Picture of cilantro flowers. After this plant flowers, the rest of the plant dies. Therefore, a major goal is to prevent flowering for as long as you can… Unless you are growing for the coriander seeds.

 

Development of this guide:

As a result of the various plant specific details, I have been working on a month-by-month planting guide for a long time. My personal plan was to create a guide that I could refer back to often without having to needlessly memorize all the details. Then I thought… I need to share this with others.

This planting guide is a consolidation of multiple other guides (which often disagree) mixed with oversight from years of personal experience.  Please let me know what your experience is too; I am always looking to improve the content with individual feedback.

Yummy Korean Melon

Yummy Korean Melon

 

Variation and pushing limits:

It is important to note that this is a ‘guide’ and not a uniform law.  There are various micro-climates in Southern California that are impacted by factors such as proximity to the ocean and mountains.

Even different locations in ones own yard may shorten or lengthen these planting ranges. For example, planting near a South facing wall will accelerate the schedule and planting in a shady North side of a building will do the opposite.  Of course you can also plant seedlings inside at an earlier date so you can get a head-start on the season.

Onion flower and black seeds

Onion flower and black seeds

 

Month-by-month guide:

The guide is intended to be as specific as possible without being overwhelming with details. Individual plants are listed in the first column below in alphabetical order. The numbers in the chart listed in the row adjacent to the plant name refer to the months of the year.

Ways to use the chart:

  • One way to look at this chart is by the specific plant. So for example, if you look at Asparagus, you will see that both January and February are good planting times for this plant.
  • If you want to know what you can plant for a specific month, just look down that month column and cross-reference to the plant on the intersecting row. For example, if you want to know what you can plant in June (6) you will see that Beans, Cantaloupe, Corn, Cucumbers, Okra, Peppers, Pumpkin, Radish, Squash, Sunflowers, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, and Watermelon are good choices.
  • Everything on the chart (except for asparagus) is for growing from seeds.

 

Jan (1) Feb (2) Mar (3) Apr (4) May (5) Jun (6) Jul (7) Aug (8) Sep (9) Oct (10) Nov (11) Dec (12)
Asparagus (from crowns) 1 2
Beans 3 4 5 6 7 8
Beets 1 2 3 4 5 10 11 12
Broccoli 1 2 3 10 11 12
Brussels Sprouts 1 2 3 10 11 12
Cabbage 1 2 3 9 10 11 12
Cantaloupe 3 4 5 6
Carrots 1 2 3 4 5 9 10 11 12
Cauliflower 1 10 11 12
Celery 8 9 10 11 12
Chives 1 2 12
Collards 1 2 10 11 12
Corn 4 5 6 7
Cucumbers 4 5 6 7
Eggplant 4 5
Endive 1 10 11 12
Jicama 4 5
Kale 1 2 3 10 11 12
Kohlrabi 1 2 3 10 11 12
Leeks 9 10 11 12
Lettuce 1 2 3 10 11 12
Mustard 1 2 10 11 12
Okra 4 5 6
Onions 1 2 3 4 10 11 12
Parsley 1 2 3 10 11 12
Parsnip 1 2 10 11 12
Peas 1 2 9 10 11 12
Peppers 4 5 6
Potatoes 1 2 3 4
Pumpkin 4 5 6
Radish 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 11 12
Rutabaga 1 2 10 11 12
Spinach 1 2 10 11 12
Squash (summer) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Squash (winter) 3 4 5 6 7
Sunflowers 3 4 5 6
Swiss Chard 1 2 3 4 5 6 10 11 12
Tomatoes 3 4 5 6 7
Turnips 1 2 3 9 10 11 12
Watermelon 4 5 6

 

 

 

 

 

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.

14 comments

  1. Thank you for this terrific information.

  2. Hi Doc.,

    I like your idea for a planting guide, but, don’t forget that you have readers from different locations that may not coincide with Calf. zones. Your follows are all over the world.

    Steve
    sl.rainforest@gmail.com

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Steve
      Thanks for the note.
      You bring up an important point.
      This planting guide is only for Southern California (or similar Mediterranean growing environments).

      It would be cool to have a planting guide like this for every region around the globe.
      However, that brings up a major issues for me.

      Basically, I prefer to provide planting guidance in my articles that are derived from personal experience and experimentation. Its part of my effort to dispel ideas that are propagated as “age-old known truth” even without objective proof. Since I dont have global growing experience, I cant really speak with authority about regions I have not planted seeds in.

      But to your point it would be great to have that type of complete planting guide.
      Any suggestions about how that could work given my objective goals?

      Thanks,
      T

  3. Hi Doc.
    I get it, there is so much incorrect information on the internet, it’s refreshing to know that what you print is correct since, you do the work before you print it.

    By the way did I tell you about an experiment I did with Dragon Fruit? I cut one piece in half in the middle and plant both ends 6 months ago, both pieces are growing well. It also doesn’t matter which end you plant, as it still grows.

    Steve Lohn, sl.rainforest@gmail.com

  4. This matches my experience as well. For most of the summer crops you could plant a month earlier than you are suggesting, but it ends up being hardly worth it vs stretching winter crops through that period.

  5. Dr. Osborne,
    I was wondering if you can write up something about the super foods that grow successfully in Southern California like goji berries, moringa trees, gac fruits, etc.. Thanks in advance! Enjoy your articles.

  6. Thank-you very much for the planting schedule – this is very useful. With regard to asparagus, when the chart lists January and February, I am assuming you are referring to planting crowns. Currently I am seeing many asparagus plants for sale in nurseries. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using either plants or crowns? Can you please elaborate on how to grow asparagus. Thank-you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top