Get Ready for Spring Veggie Planting 

Encourage vegetables to develop deep root systems with less frequent but deeper watering for a bounty of summer vegetables. PHOTO PIXABAY.
Encourage vegetables to develop deep root systems with less frequent but deeper watering for a bounty of summer vegetables. PHOTO PIXABAY.

According to the calendar spring won’t arrive until March 19, but many Santa Clarita Valley gardeners are very anxious to start planning spring vegetable gardens. 

However, John Windsor. a Certified Arborist, California Certified Nurseryman and Horticultural Consultant, says “Hold up, not so fast.” 

Windsor teaches landscape and gardening workshops for the Santa Clarita Water Agency and the city of Santa Clarita Department of Parks and Rec. He is a consultant for Green Thumb Nursery in Newhall and a former horticulture educator. 

He said SCV gardeners should be wary of planting their spring vegetables too early.  

Windsor said the SCV is prone to late cold snaps, 

He recommends gardeners wait until after March 21. 

“Most vegetables, particularly tomatoes have a built-in clock which tells them the day they emerge from the ground it will be a certain number of days until they produce fruit,” he said. 

For example, the popular Early Girl tomato will produce fruit in 60 days, other varieties including Celebrity take 100 days, Champion, 80 days.  

Always check your seed packets or the label on your live plants to determine how long it will take before you can expect your plants to produce. 

Windsor said that veggies planted too early will struggle to grow.  

“One year at the nursery a colleague and I tested this theory and by June 21 my plants were taller and producing more fruit than his, which had been planted a full month before my plants,” he said.  

Windsor suggests waiting beyond March if the weather remains cool. 

Depending on the plant seed packages suggest not planting until the soil is consistently warmer than 50 degrees. Some gardening experts advise that warm-season edibles prefer soil temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.  

“Warm soil helps the plants sprout and grow, it is as important as the outdoor temperature,” he said. “It is better to procrastinate a bit.” 

Windsor said there are many rewards in growing your own veggies. 

“There is great satisfaction of going out into the garden and picking something to eat you have grown,” he said. “You also know how it was grown and what was put into the ground.” 

Don’t Germinate Plants Indoors 

Despite the popularity of germinating plants early indoors in February, Windsor advises against this practice.  

“Plants do not get enough sunlight indoors,” he said. “This practice of growing starter plants early causes them to etiolate, or stretch, to reach for sunlight that really isn’t there. The plants will be long, thin and not hardy.”  

 Where Should I Plant? 

If you are planning your first vegetable garden Windsor recommends that you carefully choose your garden’s location before you start planning when or what to plant. 

“Plant veggies in the sun,” he said. “I hear it every day, it is too hot in Santa Clarita, they need shade.” 

Windsor vehemently disagrees.  

“Every farm I’ve ever seen has been out in the sun,” he said. 

Deep, less frequent watering will encourage plants to develop a healthy, deep root system, said Windsor. 

“Frequent, shallow watering causes roots to remain at the surface where they dry out faster,” he said.  

Soil Preparation 

If you can’t plant your veggies yet, what can you do now to prepare for a successful summer garden? 

Windsor said soil preparation is very important to the success of any garden. 

“One thing I tell my students is that we really don’t have any topsoil here in Santa Clarita,” Windsor said. “All the topsoil has long ago been washed downstream in the Santa Clara River to Ventura and Oxnard, that’s why they can grow those beautiful strawberries. That’s our topsoil they are growing stuff in.” 

To give your emerging veggies the best start Windsor recommends the following steps to prepare your garden for spring planting.  

Weed removal (cutting, pulling, or spraying). 

Remove rocks and debris. 

Rototill or dig with shovels to loosen soil. 

Rake and remove rocks and debris. 

Add fertilizer and organic material as needed. 

Rototill or turn with shovels to mix all ingredients. 

Rake smooth and level. 

Check irrigation. 

Improve Your Soil 

If you are starting a new vegetable garden Windsor recommends the addition of the following materials to improve a 100 square foot area and give your seeds the best chance to flourish.  

Mix together 

12 cubic feet of organic material which can include leaves, grass clippings and compost.  

5 pounds all-purpose natural fertilizer with pro-biotics. 

5 pounds of pelletized gypsum. 

5 pounds of Dolomite Lime. 

2 pounds of Epsom Salts. 

5 Pounds of Azomite and or Rock Phosphate. 

5 Pounds of Greensand and or Sul-Po-Mag. 

The following recipe is useful when planting an individual plant: 

1 cup pelletized gypsum. 

1 tablespoon of granulized soil sulphur. 

1 tablespoon chelated iron. 

1 tablespoon of magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts). 

1⁄2 cup all-purpose natural fertilizer with beneficial bacteria, mycorrhizae fungus and Humic acid. 

Container Gardening 

Windsor also recommends the following recipe for homemade organic potting soil for use with square foot gardening or container gardening. 

It is a mixture of 50% organic material and 50% of mineral material. 

This mixture will make approximately 15 cubic feet of soil and will fill an area 4 feet by 4 feet by 1 foot deep. 

Mix together: 

One large bale of peat moss or Coconut Coir = 3 cubic feet. 

 One large bag of vermiculite = 3 cubic feet. 

Three bags of sand = 3 cubic feet. 

Three bags of pumice = 3 cubic feet. 

To this mixture the following nutrients should be added: 

5 pounds pelletized gypsum. 

5 pounds of sul-po-mag. 

5 pounds of dolomite lime. 

5 pounds of soft rock phosphate. 

5 pounds of organic fertilizer. For the organic fertilizer, chose one that contains beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae fungus and humic acids.

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