Want a winter crop? Wait till November to plant

A woman stands on a hillside near plants and trees.
Master gardener Yvonne Savio at home in her Pasadena garden in 2018.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 31. I’m Jeanette Marantos, a features writer for The Times’ Lifestyle section, and I mostly write about plants, landscapes and gardening.

These days, with predictions of excessive heat into October, it feels like the only real harbinger of fall is coffee shops trumpeting the return of pumpkin spice lattes. (Bleah.) But once upon a time in Southern California, there was a kind and mellow month named September, which like its sister month, June, was known for its gentle disposition.

In those days, September was a shoulder month, a pleasant transition between the heat of summer and winter’s damp chill. It seemed like school always started after Labor Day and we could wear our new fall clothes without too much discomfort because, in those days, September usually had a little chill in the air and not triple-digit temps.


For gardeners, September started our gloating time. Unlike in other parts of the country where people were preparing for cold and snow, SoCal gardeners could welcome a whole new growing season for cool-weather crops like leafy greens, broccoli and peas that flourished in our mild, wet winters. September was the perfect time to start seeds and plant tender seedlings for harvests starting as early as Thanksgiving.

Lest you think this is a fairy tale, I offer you the writings of Yvonne Savio, who ran L.A. County’s master gardener program for 25 years and has been gardening in Pasadena for nearly 60. This is how she describes September in her monthly list of gardening tips on her comprehensive website, Gardening in L.A.:

“September’s mildness makes just about any gardening tasks pleasant. The soil and air are warm but not overly hot. Fresh summer produce is still delicious, but production is slowing down.... Seeds and transplants of cool-weather-hardy crops can be planted now for harvests from fall through early spring.”

It’s advice Savio has given for years, but amid heat waves, drought, watering restrictions and — for many Angelenos — an absolute ban on outdoor watering from Sept. 6 to 20 to repair a leaky pipe, she’s planning an update.

“I’m saying now that gardeners should wait to plant until late October or November, because it’s just staying hot longer,” she told me last week. “It isn’t like it starts to rain around the first part of November anymore. Because of climate change, we’ve got to readjust. [The planting season’s] getting pushed forward by at least a month because of the high temperatures, and who knows what the water is going to do.”

It’s worrisome, considering that June, once the other shoulder month between spring’s cool and summer’s heat, has become too hot for successful planting too. “Three years ago, I stopped putting in my second big crop of tomatoes in June,” Savio said. “Because of the heat, I could not get my transplants sufficiently established to give me a decent crop, even with me pouring water on it. It was too much of a struggle.”

I’ll be writing about Savio’s recalibrated tips for fall gardeners later this week in The Times’ Lifestyle section, as part of my monthly roundup of upcoming gardening events. Give us a look when you have a chance. (Here’s one sneak peek: The California Botanic Garden in Claremont is offering a $20 lawn removal class on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.)


This is my last day of filling in on the Essential California newsletter, but it’s been fun sharing my passion for plants. Thanks for reading.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Los Angeles’ 10th City Council District still can’t choose a replacement for the empty council seat. The City Council split on who should fill the seat of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was indicted on federal corruption charges. Council President Nury Martinez was hoping to get the district’s caretaker, Heather Hutt, appointed, but she only got nine of the 10 votes needed to make it happen. Now the question has gone back to the council’s rules committee. Los Angeles Times

About 11% of Texas’ new residents are from California — especially L.A. County, the only county outside of Texas that generated the top 10 largest number of migrants into the Dallas metropolitan area between July 2019 and July 2022. And surprise surprise, it seems those former Californians are fueling more business at In-N-Out restaurants in Texas. The California-based chain expanded to Texas in 2011, and this July reported a 24% increase in sales in the Dallas metro area compared to three years earlier. Bloomberg

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Must death doulas become licensed funeral directors? A judge in Northern California is expected to rule this summer on what end-of-life doulas can and cannot do legally, based on a nearly century-old state law regulating funerals, writes Anabel Sosa, The Times’ summer state politics intern. Doulas are not medical people. They are described as companions trained to support others through significant health-related experiences, from childbirth to death. But California’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau has questioned whether doulas are performing duties, such as dressing and washing bodies, that only licensed funeral directors can perform. Los Angeles Times

Lawmakers approved legislation restricting the use of solitary confinement in California prisons, jails and private detention centers. Assembly Bill 2632 aims to ban the use of solitary confinement for vulnerable populations such as pregnant and elderly people. Representatives for the California State Sheriffs’ Assn. said the new rules would make facilities more dangerous, but advocates say solitary confinement “negatively affects rehabilitation and leads to increased recidivism rates,” writes Times politics reporter Hannah Wiley. The governor has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the measure. Los Angeles Times


The L.A. County sheriff and other department officials tried to block the testimony of a key witness at a “deputy gang” hearing, according to a new lawsuit. But the request came too late, the suit states, and Sgt. Jefferson Chow testified that he’d been ordered not to ask questions about the role of the Banditos deputy group in an alleged 2018 assault. Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s chief of staff John Satterfield called the allegation “100% FALSE.” Los Angeles Times

The nurse charged with killing six in Windsor Hills may have been unconscious prior to the crash, according to new court records filed by her attorneys. The records detail a four-year history of mental health problems for nurse Nicole Linton, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018. A doctor at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center who saw Linton two days after the crash said the nurse suffered an “apparent lapse of consciousness” at the time of the crash on Aug. 4, which killed the parents of a 1-year old boy and their unborn child, as well as two close friends. Los Angeles Times

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SoCal’s “worst heat wave of the year” starts today, and could last until Labor Day .... or longer. Meteorologists predict high temperatures, soaring to 115 degrees in some parts of Southern California, that could last through Monday, though “we don’t see an end to it right now,” meteorologist David Sweet said. Times reporter Alexandra Petri lays out the timing for the heat wave and who will be hit the hardest. Los Angeles Times



Before Disneyland, Southern California was deluged with tuberculosis “tourists.” Columnist Patt Morrison details how sanitariums became a booming business in SoCal in the late 1800s, and then a community problem as thousands of tuberculosis sufferers flocked to the state hoping for a cure. Los Angeles Times

How Los Alamos became California’s new culinary destination. In case you didn’t get the memo, the tiny “one-street town” of Los Alamos in the Central Coast’s Santa Ynez Valley is the new “it” town for fine (and pricey) dining. Vogue

These San Pedro skaters got political game — and reopened a long closed skatepark. They started as skateboarders with little savvy about City Hall, but in the end, the San Pedro Skatepark Assn. learned how to fundraise, lobby and ultimately reopen the Channel Street Skatepark. An inspiring tale by Times sportswriter David Wharton, with gorgeous photos by Allen Schaben. And don’t miss the gnarly video by Mark Potts. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: sunny, 92. San Diego: sunny, 83. San Francisco: mostly sunny, 69. San Jose: partly cloudy, 81. Fresno: sunny, 104. Sacramento: sunny, 99.


Today’s California memory is from Lee Nevis:

In the early 1950s, I grew up in semi-rural Lemon Grove, just outside of San Diego. I knew where all of the houses and streets were by sight and memory. When we made our first visit to Lakewood in Long Beach, I saw the long streets with identical houses. Lakewood was one of the first large developments of tract homes in Southern California. I remember exclaiming, “How can anyone find their home or street, especially at night?” and my father just smiled. Being a mail carrier, he later explained street names and house numbers. Now everywhere has large and small tracts of homes.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


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