When should I remove this plant?

Preparing your garden for the spring semester can be a little tricky in Los Angeles. Unlike other parts of the country, there isn’t a clear delineating winter to kill off plants. If your plants did not survive winter break though, leave these dead plants in the garden until the week you will be planting. This will prevent soil loss due to the Santa Ana winds, prevent animals from digging or defecating in your garden, and help retain moisture.

>> Feel free to skip to the bottom of this post for the spring garden plan.

If your plants survived, it can be a little tricky to determining an appropriate time to remove crops from the garden.  It can help to imagine Los Angeles as having two gardening periods: one for hot-weather and one for cool-weather crops. You can go from one period to the next by either 1) clearing out your garden beds right before planting  or  2) spot clearing: removing plants as they begin to under-perform. We recommend the latter as it will increase your harvest window but it really depends your garden team.

 

Remove individual plants when:

 

1. they start going to seed (bolting)

The hot season usually starts around March but as anyone who’s ever lived in LA will tell you, this can start at a moment’s notice. Rising temperatures make cool-weather plants start to end their life cycle. Previously short plants, like lettuces and radishes, will start to grow taller and all cool-weather plants eventually produce buds and flowers. This process makes plants woody and taste sharply declines. It is best to harvest before plants start to grow vertically. This also happens when plants are just old. A five month old carrot will need to reproduce sometime, right?

>> watch our video, The Bolting Process [YouTube 1:43], to learn more about this important part of a plant’s lifecycle

 

2. turn into a pest magnet
Do you see more aphids than leaves? Do you have more holes in your lettuce than swiss cheese? Is your cabbage mushy? Are most of your leaves discolored, goopy, or fuzzy? If you answered yes, it is time to discard the plant. When plants are not growing in ideal conditions (lacking proper temperature, sunlight, water, nutrients) they are more susceptible to pests and disease. These pests and diseases can spread to nearby plants and can live in the soil to infect again.

Do not: compost these plants–temperatures in the compost pile may not reach sufficient temperature to kill pathogens [source].

Do: plant something not related. If your broccoli had pest issues do not plant cabbage (also a brassica) there but rather a pepper.

3. they slowed or stopped producing

Plants like sugar snap peas* (and likewise tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini in in the fall/winter) will slow and stop producing when the temperatures fall out of the preferred range [source]. Remember, your Learning Garden is valuable real estate and as such you should replace underwhelming plants with a new, bountiful crops. *Please note: sugar snap peas can also stop producing if pods are not harvested promptly and left too long on the plant.

Garden tip: be very aggressive in your harvesting, especially as the temperatures start to rise. All it takes is one heat wave to make all your crops go to seed (and not taste good), so keep an eye on your thermometer!

>> visit our Harvest & Eat page for harvest planning, food safety, harvesting resources, and more! And as always, track your harvests for a chance to win one of our many classroom kitchen kits.

 

Spring Garden Resources

Warm-weather seedlings such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant may not be available until March due to nursery seasonality. If you acquire your own seedlings, it is advised to wait until at least mid-late February to plant as cooler temperatures can lead to leggy, less flavorful fruits, and less resilient to pests & disease.