What to Plant When the Weather Can’t Decide

Crazy Weather Planting Considerations

The weather we have had the last two winters has been quite puzzling. We had La Ninas predicted but got El Nino rains. And 92 degrees days followed by 45 degree days. East Winds (or Santanas) followed by monsoons.

What we are seeing in our gardens is cool weather crops bolting from the heat, and warm season veggies being challenged by the cold weather. Here  are a couple of ideas for you to consider.

Grow your own shade to protect your cool weather veggies

Here is the quandary – most veggies need full sun, some veggies need shade. How do we get both? And how do we maximize our limited gardening space?

How about a grow-your-own shade system.

Shade Structure View From Above

Shade Structure View From Above

I wish I could give credit for this idea, but forget where it came from. Shade structures from light wood frames and chicken wire or light mesh makes a sturdy support for climbing or sprawling plants. The supporting frame can be any convenient size, and can be readjusted to change the shadow cast.

The frames double the amount of growing space with a shade providing plant, given full access to the sun, and cool weather veggies in their own micro-climate.

Sprawling plants, such as cucumbers or peas provide shade and developing fruit benefit from being kept off the cold, damp ground.

Shade Structure Side View

Shade Structure Side View

Other early developing plants that needs support are determinate tomatoes. Try growing these on mesh and the fruit will hang out the bottom, waiting for you.

‘Determinant’ means the plant’s genetics have determined the number of tomatoes they will grow, and they grow them all at once.

These fruit heavily, suddenly, and tend to be early season varieties – which means they are in and out before summer really hits.

New Zealand Spinach is another possibility. This plant is not a  true spinach, grows rapidly, easily, and adapts well to our weather.

Ours was started from 1 packet of seeds in 1952. This plant has proved to be both drought and heat tolerant (although not at the same time).

New Zealand Spinach

New Zealand Spinach

This under-appreciated green is very high in nutrients, often 50% more than ‘real’ spinach. It gives a slightly spicy taste to recipes calling for spinach. The leaf is thicker than spinach and slightly fuzzy, giving it more texture than true spinach.

Another nice thing about this plant is that is doesn’t care if it is hot or cold – or both.

It grows quickly enough that you can adjust the light that passes through simply cutting it back harder or not. If let go, it forms a dense mat that covers the ground, preventing weeds. Any excess, with all the water and nitrogen it contains, does wonders for your compost pile.

Cool Weather Veggies to Grow in the Shade

Understory veggies that would benefit from the shade and cooler micro-climate include shorter lettuces  (such as the ‘cut-n-come-again’, mache mixes, or other baby lettuces) in front, with taller varieties such as Romaine, chard, or taller cabbage family plants (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) placed to the rear.

The stair-step arrangement allows air and predators access to your plants, keeping them dry and free from bugs and diseases. Or at least, that’s the theory ;) Our experience with aphids hiding in curled leaves shows the value of keeping areas open - watch that drama unfold.

The outlook is bright for predatory insects. The long wet winter has given us an abundant crop of predatory insect. An army of lady bug larvae was emerging in this morning’s warmth – and heading off to feed…

Remember when ordering seeds this year Renee’s Coupon Code that brings Camarillo Community Garden 25% of each purchase is FR442A – as we mentioned in this post on our new partner.


Mike was one of the founding members of the garden, author of this website and first chairman of the garden. Mike helped create the Antonio Garden which in turn has spawned more gardens throughout the county and across the country. The latest garden that used our model is in Iowa.
Mike Taylor is a best-selling author, Sr. Editor at Newswire, publisher, broadcaster, business strategist and coach. Mike works from Southern California offices and helps businesses and professionals across the country. Mike's work has been seen on major media sites including ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, Yahoo Finance, the Sacramento Bee, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters as well as local TV and newspapers. Visit his Amazon author page here or connect on LinkedIn or Google+.

Web service provided by Camarillo Online Marketing.com