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Time of planting

California has a unique vegetable growing climate, we can grow many different types of vegetable crops throughout the year. Crops are classified as warm-season or cool-season crops. Vegetable planting guides provide the approximate planting periods for both cool and warm-season crops. If they are planted too early or too late, productivity will be reduced. It is important that you plant at the right time of year for each crop for optimum yield.

Temperature is probably the most important climatic factor that affects the success of your garden.

  • Cool-season crops grow best and produce the best quality when the average temperatures are 55°F to 75°F and are usually tolerant of slight frosts. Plants in this group include root crops such as: beets, carrots, parsnip, radish and turnips; stems such as asparagus and white potato; leafy crops such as cabbage, celery, lettuce, onion, and spinach and plants whose immature flower parts we eat, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and globe artichokes.

  • Warm season crops are crops that grow best when the days are long and hot (between 65°F and 95°F. These include crops with mature fruit such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and watermelon, or immature fruit such as corn, squash, and snap beans.

Other climatic factors that affect the growth and quality of vegetables are soil moisture and length of day from sunrise to sunset. For example, brussel sprouts and globe artichokes grow more successfully near the ocean, where the humidity is high and temperatures are cool. Many annuals, such as radishes, lettuce, spinach, and Chinese cabbage, tend to produce flowers as the days grow longer in late spring.

Be aware of both the approximate first and last frost dates in your area and protect plants if frost is expected. (unless crops are frost tolerant). You can expand your growing season by starting plants indoors 6-8 weeks prior to the date you want to plant the garden.

Recommended planting dates for major regions of California

These dates are based on the average temperatures for each region; you may have to make some adjustments if your area varies widely from the average. Seasonal temperatures are very important in determining when to plant a crop so that it matures when average temperatures are likely to be optimal.

Recommended planting dates
Vegetables North & North Coast South Coast Interior Valleys Desert Valleys Crop Type
artichoke* Aug–Dec May–July July Sept cool
beans, snap July; May–June March–Aug

April–May; July–Aug

Jan–March; Aug warm
beets Feb–Aug Jan–Sept Feb–April; Aug Sept-Jan cool
broccoli* Feb-April; July-Sept June-July; Jan-Feb Dec - Feb; July Sept cool
cabbage* Jan-April; July-Sept Aug-Feb July; Feb Sept-Nov cool
cantaloupes and other melons May April-May April-June Jan-April warm
carrots Jan-May; July-Aug Jan-Sept Aug-Sept; Feb-April Sept-Dec cool
cauliflower* June-July; Jan-Feb July-Oct; Feb July-Aug Aug-Sept cool
celery* March-June April-Aug June-Aug cool
chayote April-May May-June warm
corn, sweet May-July March-July March-July; Aug Feb-March warm
cucumbers April-June April-Jun April-July Feb-May; Aug warm
eggplant* May April-May April-May Feb-April warm
garlic Oct–Dec Oct–Dec Oct–Dec Sept-Nov cool
kale Feb–April Aug–Oct Aug–Sept Sept–Nov cool
kohlrabi July–Aug Jan; Aug–Sept Aug Oct–Nov cool
lettuce Feb–Aug Aug–April Aug; Nov–March Sept-Dec cool
okra May April-May May May warm
onions, bulb Jan-March; Nov-Jan Feb-Oct Oct-Nov; Jan-March Oct-Nov cool
onions, green* April-July all year Aug-Dec Sept-Jan cool
parsley Dec–May Dec–May Dec–May Sep–Oct cool
parsnips May–Jun Mar–Jul May–Jul Sep–Oct cool
peppers* May April-May May March warm
potatoes, sweet* May Apr–May Apr–Jun Feb–Jun warm
potatoes, white

early-Feb; late-April-May

Feb–May; Jun–Aug Feb–Mar; Aug Dec–Feb cool
pumpkins May May-June April-June March-June warm
rhubarb* Dec-March Dec-Jan Dec-Feb cool
spinach Aug–Feb Aug-March Sept–Jan Sept–Nov cool
squash, summer May–July April–June April–July Feb–Mar; Aug–Sep  warm
squash, winter May April-June April-June  Feb-March; Aug warm
tomatoes* May April-
July 15
April-May Dec-March warm
watermelons May-June April-June April-June Jan-March warm

Notes: North and North Coast = Monterey County north; South Coast = San Luis Obispo County south; Interior Valleys = Sacramento, San Joaquin, and similar valleys; Desert Valleys = Imperial and Coachella Valleys. Planting dates are for seed unless noted otherwise. Because the areas shown here are large, planting dates are only approximate, as the climate may vary even in small sections of the state. Contact experienced gardeners in your community and experiment on your own to find more precise dates.

*Transplants, shoots, or roots are used for field planting.

Source: California Master Gardener Handbook, Table 13.2, Adapted from Vegetable Gardening Illustrated 1994.