When to Grow Vegetables in California

California enjoys a climate that is suitable for planting and harvesting vegetables year-round. Gardeners should understand which crops enjoy cooler weather and which produce more yield in the warmer season. 

Sometimes vegetable planting guides can help gardeners succeed by offering suggestions and intel about the best planting periods for various vegetables. Plant productivity is reduced if the plant is transplanted into the ground too early or too late in that plant’s growing season. 

Generally, cool-season crops grow rapidly and produce high-quality vegetables when the temperature averages between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Notably, these plants can withstand slight frosts if a cold snap moves through the area after the crops are planted. On the other hand, warm-season crops grow best when the days are long and hot or consistently above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Vegetable garden in California

When should I start my vegetable garden in California? 

While spring is the peak vegetable planting season in a large portion of the United States, for much of California, some crops are better sowed during the cooler fall and winter months. 

  • First, determine the approximate date of the last frost of the year. If you are growing from seeds, then six to eight weeks before that last frost, gardeners can plant the seeds in starter pots and keep the fledgling seeds indoors and with temperature control. 
  • Depending on the vegetable, it usually takes about two weeks for the seeds to germinate, then an additional four weeks for the seeds to grow to a large enough size to survive transplant to the outside world.
  • Second, sow your seeds or transplant seedlings after the last frost of the year and make sure that the soil is healthy and the seeds are regularly hydrated. 

Can you grow vegetables year-round in California? 

California has a unique climate that impacts gardeners. As such, Californians can grow various types of vegetable crops throughout the year.

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Crops are often classified by the temperate when the plants grow best, like warm or cool weather. For crops to reach their maximum yield, planting the seeds during the correct season is essential. 

What vegetables are in season right now to grow in California?

California grows nearly eighty percent of all fruits and vegetables in the United States. California enjoys mild weather across all seasons.

Some of the most common spring and early summer vegetables include;

  • apricots
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • cherries
  • cucumbers
  • scallions
  • wild mushrooms
  • peas
  • radishes
  • rhubarb
  • strawberries

Because the climate is so favorable, many vegetables thrive in California. Indeed, the state produces nearly all of the United State’s almonds, apricots, figs, olives, pistachios, and walnuts.

Additionally, California also is instrumental in the production of other fruits like avocados, lemons, melons, and strawberries.

When should I plant my vegetable garden in Southern California?

Generally, gardeners should plant seeds or transplant seedlings after the year’s last frost. Notably, in some regions of California, gardeners might not experience frost, so you can start planting in the ground as early as February! 

Gardeners can either plant seedlings started indoors or sow seeds directly in the soil. Often nurseries or home improvement stores will sell vegetables that are ready to plant directly in the ground outside. 

What should I plant in March in California? 

To begin outdoor planting in March in California, gardeners can sow or transplant beets, celery, carrots, chard, kale, leeks, lettuces, green onions, peas, parsley, potatoes, radishes, strawberries, shallots, and spinach.

California Growing Season Chart 

Generally, most cities in California have about 270 days between the last and first frost. Using calculated planting schedules below will help at-home gardeners make the most out of a garden. 

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Planting zones can be easily divided in California by dividing the state between the North and the South. 

Northern California Growing Season Chart 

Northern California Growing Season Chart 

Southern California Growing Season Chart 

Southern California Growing Season Chart 

Sacramento: Vegetable Planting Calendar 

Sacramento is the capital of California; it is in the northern portion of the state, adjacent to the Bay Area. If you live in that area, the below chart will help you determine when to plant your seeds or seedlings. 

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Sacramento: Vegetable Planting Calendar 

Northern California Gardening: A month-by-month Guide 

In January, begin planning your summer garden by buying seeds, planting some fruit tree varieties, plant some asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries. California gardeners can also begin starting seeds indoors. 

In February, begin your seeds inside for warm-season crops since most of the seeds will require four to eight weeks inside before transplanting. Some of these vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, and basil. 

In March, California gardeners should plant root crops in the garden like carrots, radishes, or potatoes. Also, begin to prepare your soil. 

During the spring months of April and May, gardeners will be the busiest. Nearly all warm-weather plants are ready to be planted in your garden. It is time to plant cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and melons

In June, fertilize, water, and prune the flowers on your vegetable plants to keep them producing fruit. Be sure to harvest the fruits of your labor.

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During July and August, pick your vegetables! Continue to fertilize and water your plants. 

In September, October, and November, you might be able to keep harvesting your vegetables from summer, and you can also begin preparing your cool-season annuals and onions. Gardeners also plant cover crops like fava beans. 

In December, maintain your soil and order next year’s harvest from seed catalogs! 

Southern California Gardening: A month-by-month Guide

A month-by-month guide for Southern California will share some things with the Northern guide. Still, it will be distinctly different due to the climate shift from upper California to lower California. 

  • In January, plant lettuce, beets, potatoes, and radishes in the ground. Kale and chard are also good crops for this region. 
  • In February, continue planting various vegetables in the ground like lettuce and spinach. Additionally, gardeners can start seeds like tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers for planting in four to six weeks. 
  • During March, plant sweet corn directly in the ground. The seedlings for tomatoes and basil should be off to a great start, and gardeners can start other seeds in containers like peppers, eggplant, and melons.
  • Again, April and May are busy months for gardeners, with more options for what vegetables can be planted or transferred into the ground, including okra and squash. 
  • By June, nearly all of your plants should be in the ground for your crop to flourish. 
  • In July and August, avoid planting anything new in the ground since yield will be nearly nonexistent. Begin to harvest the vegetables you planted earlier in the year. Be cautious of water conditions, and be sure your crops have enough moisture. 
  • In September and October, crops like lentils and chickpeas can be planted in the ground for a fall harvest. Other vegetable crops for the fall include Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. 
  • In November, legumes can be planted in the ground, and other seeds can be started, like broccoli. 
  • By December, finish up your fall harvest and begin planning what your next year’s garden will hold.