Vegetable gardening in San Francisco, California requires cool planning. According to Sunset Garden Climate Zones, this coastal region is marked by cool and foggy weather. The growing season is March to November with summer temperatures averaging 75 degrees. Sunset Garden reports, “Heat-loving plants disappoint or dwindle here.” Vegetable gardens thrive when gardeners choose cool-season or short-season varieties.
Tomatoes, a home garden favorite, grow in summer weather. Bay Area gardeners have best results with transplants that jump-start the growing season. Master Gardeners for the San Francisco region suggest varieties such as early, cherry or smaller classic tomatoes that bear fruit with less sunshine. These plants develop in cool weather and mature about two months after transplanting. Look for varieties that mature in 45 to 70 days. San Francisco garden centers offer these and other coastal-specific varieties.
Bell peppers, red or green, thrive in San Francisco gardens. According to Orin Martin, Master Gardener for University of California, Santa Cruz, sweet bell peppers need cool summers or short growing seasons and are sensitive to hot days. Some varieties are especially suited to the foggy and overcast San Francisco region as the peppers are vulnerable to sunburn. Early varieties mature at about 50 days green and 70 days red. Martin recommends allowing the fruit to change color from green to yellow or red as flavor becomes sweeter and vitamins A and C are stronger. Standard or long season bell peppers mature 30 to 40 days later than early cultivars.
Leaf vegetables like loose-leaf lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard grow best in cool weather. Bobbi Benson, San Mateo County Master Gardener, chooses these vegetables for school gardens as they complete their life cycle in one short growing season. He advises planting carrots, beets, bunching onions and other root vegetables at the same time. Though root vegetables often require long growing seasons for maturity, Benson recommends harvesting in the Bay Area when these root veggies are just a few inches long. These tender baby veggies blend with the leafy greens for fresh salads.
The Master Gardeners Handbook recommends cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and peas. Rhubarb, used for fruit desserts, is a perennial vegetable. Prepare permanent beds for rhubarb and other perennial vegetables including asparagus and artichokes. Select rhubarb with deep green leaves and red stalks, asparagus with feathery foliage and artichokes growing from large, leafy mounds for edible ornamental landscaping as well as vegetable gardens. These veggies grow well in San Francisco.