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Notes from Cool veggie gardening workshop


I went to the cool season vegetable gardening class given by fellow Master Gardeners Ann and Alice, most Ann for the presentation part. Cool season vegetables are those that do well in the Bay Area's mild winter, where the average daytime temperatures are between 50° and 70° F. These vegetables in clude green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, mustards, etc.), broccoli, onions, garlic, beets and radishes.

Advantages to planting a cool season (i.e. winter) garden include:

  • minimal watering needs
  • fewer pests, including bugs and weeds
  • food in the winter time!
  • winter food tastes better: harsh vegetables are more mild (e.g. radishes, arugula)
  • winter vegetables are typically higher in nutritional value
  • slower growing rates mean harvesting is easier (not ALL AT ONCE)

Disadvantages include

  • starting the garden, which happens in August and the ground is warm. Winter plants may have to vie with summer plants for space in the garden
  • difficult to keep soil moist in hotter weather
  • watering is unsure because rains can help, or not
  • direct seeding can be difficult
  • weather might be difficult (e.g. frosts)
  • nails and slugs are more prevalent


  • If direct seeding in August, plant in shade that will go away in September or October, say a bean or squash plant's shade.
  • Use row covers to keep insects away and the soil moist. Water through the row cover. Don't put the row cover on too tight, allow growing room for the plants
  • There are two planting times, one at the beginning of the cool weather season when the ground is warm, but the air temperatures are cooling, and one when the ground is cool(er) but the air temperatures are warming. Try planting for both.
  • Watch local nurseries for seedlings to transplant: they'll help determine when to plant.
  • Amend the soil with a nitrogen additive before transplanting seedlings.
  • Use a mulch.
  • Carrots, beets and radishes (see a trend?) need to be directly sown into the ground. They don't transplant well.
  • Don't plant anything where you eat the flower (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) in full shade. You need the sun for those, or you'll get a lot of leaves and no fruiting plants.
  • It's okay to plant green, leafy vegetables in part to full shade. These include kale, spinach, arugula, lettuce, and the weed miner's lettuce.

I found other vegetable recommendation on the Master Gardener website, with some planting date information. Nothing as nice as the chart on the handout at the workshop, but they ran out of the handouts and I didn't really need another piece of paper.

I think this is where my cool weather garden is going in, as I can start it now.