Yes, it’s time to start thinking about the fall.
What!!? I’m just starting to get my first tomatoes and squash! you might say. Why should I think about anything else?
Here’s why. As San Franciscans we can grow and harvest crops all the year round, and a few of the crops that produce exceptionally well in our fall weather need to be started now because they take such a long time to grow. Mainly leeks, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, swiss chard, and beets.
These crops are also not available in most nurseries right now, so they must be started from seed. Other fall crops like sugar snap peas, lettuce, carrots, kohlrabi, and radishes grow so fast a planting now would be too soon. (Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when to plant them soon, but now back to broccoli.)
I recommend starting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and swiss chard in six packs in a sunny window sill or deck right now. These crops are highly susceptible to snails and slugs when young and transplant fairly well.
It’s also easier to keep young seedlings moist when they are near by. Plant one to two seeds per individual pocket and thin out the weakest one when the seedlings are about a month old. Don’t put them in the ground until they are about 6 to 8 inches tall.
Make sure to mix in compost before planting because all four grow very large and like to feed. Space broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower every 12 inches. Swiss chard every 6 inches, leeks and beets every 3 inches.
Leeks and beets are a little easier — all you need to do is directly plant the seeds into the ground, and keep the soil moist until they sprout.
Keep any eye out for aphids, caterpillars, snails and slugs on your broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower crops, paying special attention to the inner heads forming as this is where aphids will fester undetected.
If you see little white moths fluttering around be sure to capture or swat them away, as they lay the eggs which turn into the caterpillars. Fall and winter harvesting is often forgotten during the summer, but remember this slogan: If you’re always planting, you’re always harvesting.
We San Franciscans have this luxury. Let’s take full advantage of it.
Quick tip: Summer fog can wipe out tomatoes. Be sure to shake the condensation of your plants every morning to let them dry out during the day, also pick off any yellow or rotting leaves as soon as you see them.
Usually after a heavy fog I notice the tips of my youngest leaves rot and mold. These rotten leaves can land on tomato stems causing stem rot. Your tomatoes will never recover from this. Keep your tomatoes clean and green as best as possible for a spectacular harvest during our “Indian Summer.” The trick to San Francisco tomatoes is to keep them alive till the heat wave comes!!
Good luck and happy harvesting!