Magazine article Sunset

Cool-Season Crops Need a Head Start

Magazine article Sunset

Cool-Season Crops Need a Head Start

Article excerpt

Now's the time to sow seeds of cabbage, lettuce, and their kin

Cabbage and cauliflower are not the crops most on our minds in late summer. We're too preoccupied trying to find recipes to use up our surplus zucchini. But put down that cookbook for a moment and pick up some potting mix: This is the ideal time to start seeds of cool-season vegetables and salad greens.

It's too hot now in much of the West to sow directly into the ground. But seeds started in flats or pots will be ready to transplant in six to eight weeks, when growing conditions are perfect. The air will be cooler and the soil just warm enough to encourage young plants to put down roots quickly. Depending on the crop, you can reap a harvest this fall, or over-winter plants in the ground for harvest early next spring.


Start seeds of any of the following crops as described in "Easy Steps" (at right).

Cole crops: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kohlrabi. Gardeners in all but the coldest Western climates (Sunset zones 1-3) can start sowing these crops now. In areas with shorter growing seasons, such as the high desert (zone 10) and the coastal Pacific Northwest (zones 4-7), sow right away.

Leaf and salad crops: Chard, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, and spinach. Most of the West can start leaf crops now. In the low and intermediate deserts (zones 11-13) and in the hot interior valleys of Southern California (zones 18-19), wait until cooler weather comes in late September or October.

Peas: Start edible-pod snap and snow peas now in all mild-winter areas except the low and intermediate deserts and zones 18-19, where you should wait until October or November.

Root crops: Beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips. Start seeds now through September in all but desert zones 11-13. …

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