Alameda’s Secret Growing Season

Courtesy photo    Cabbage is one of many brassicas that can be grown during the winter in Alameda.

People move to the Bay Area for many reasons, among them: work, its unique social life and the fantastic natural beauty of California. But for gardeners who find themselves living here a greater secret awaits, for Alameda has not two, but three growing seasons. In addition to the early and late-summer plantings, the Island’s gentle climate also allows a winter-season garden.

As gardeners in most other places are waiting for the heated days of summer to produce corn, tomatoes and melons, our agricultural “Zone 10” designation means that though summers may be challenged by fog, in Alameda, gardening activities can continue (with a careful watch for the rare frosty night) into and through the winter months. 

Planning, as with anything, is the key to making it all happen, especially with the summer harvest drawing to a close. Consulting seed websites or local nurseries for cool weather zone-appropriate varieties aids production. Refreshing the beds with compost will boost the new plants’ growth. 

Purchasing a movable hoop-row structure or plastic “floating” cover ahead of time can mean the difference between success and freeze-failure should colder-than-normal weather suddenly occur. A true freeze isn’t common in Alameda, but has been known to happen, so be prepared. Insects are much less active in cooler weather, but Alamedans should always be looking out for slugs and snails.

Sowing root vegetable seeds during the waning days of Indian summer gives the seeds the heat they need for sprouting. Late October’s cooling weather may show little happening at the ground’s surface, however roots continue developing in the still-warm soil. 

Mulching the growing plants with straw or additional compost will help seal some of this warmth in, while discouraging nearby weeds. Come late February, home-grown carrots, rutabagas, beets and onions can be ready for adding to a late-winter stew or borscht.

Starting peas, cabbages and Brussels sprouts indoors prior to planting in a bright patch of ground in early to mid-November will yield tasty fresh treats come March. Peas cease flowering once the temperature warms above 70 degrees, but warming weather will promote blooming in cabbage varieties. 

Imagine Saint Patrick’s Day accompanying the traditional corned beef and cabbage straight from one’s own garden. Sampling garden-fresh peas for the first time is eye-opening to anyone raised on the canned, or even frozen variety. Taking advantage of Alameda’s extra “secret” season offers rewards to be enjoyed. 

 

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) is a network of gardeners in Alameda interested in growing food and donating fresh produce to neighbors who face food insecurity. Find the schedule for ABG’s monthly education meetings at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.org. 

ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them so more fresh fruit can be delivered to the Alameda Food Bank. To sign up, email 
info@alamedabackyardgrowers.org or leave a message at 239-PICK (510-239-7485).