Growing Annual Crops
Learn what thrives in our coastal climate.
by Tamara McFarland, Cooperation Humboldt
Annual plants are those that grow for a season and then die in the winter. You must replant them every year.
Perennials are plants that grow year-round or come back every year. You only plant them once.
When most people think of vegetable gardening, they imagine annual crops like greens, beans, corn, and squash. While we also find tremendous value in perennial food plants, there’s no doubt that annual veggies have a big role to play in most gardens. But which should you choose for the best chance of success in the greater Humboldt Bay region? Here are some of our top picks.
Greens are every cool climate gardener’s best friend. Endless varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, arugula, bok choy and more can easily be grown here, possibly even year-round depending on your site.
Easy to grow either from seeds or starts, snap peas, snow peas, and shelling peas can be grown in three seasons in our climate (all but winter). Most can be eaten pods and all, at any stage of development.
Many herbs thrive in our area – cilantro, parsley, dill, and basil if you have a hot spot – just to name a few. And there’s really no substitute for the flavor that comes from using fresh herbs in your cooking. They can also be dried to use year-round (or to make seasoned salts).
Also known as cruciferous vegetables, this family of plants includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, and turnips. These vegetables contain substances that may protect against cancer, and they grow quite well in our bioregion. Slugs can be a problem, so use beer traps or another method like ‘Sluggo’ that is organic approved and pet-safe. Cabbage loopers are another common pest; regular applications of Monterey B.t. should help.
Squash comes in two categories – summer squash (zucchini, for example) has softer skin and must be eaten fresh (or preserved by pickling, freezing, etc.); whereas winter squash (butternut, delicata, and others) has a hard skin that allows it to be stored for months under proper conditions, helping to provide a food source through winter.
These beautiful beans are large and colorful at harvest, and before then they provide beautiful flowers that pollinators adore. They can be eaten at all stages of development. Learn to dry and store them and you can eat them for months to come. If conditions in your garden are favorable, runner beans may perennialize (come back year after year).
Tasty and nutritious, carrots are popular for all ages, and you’ll be amazed by how much more intense their flavor is when freshly picked. They are fun to harvest and easy to store until you need them (just leave them in the ground until then).
While not technically an annual (they will usually produce for several years), we must mention strawberries. Easy to grow and a hit for all ages, you’ll never regret growing them. If you ever have extra, they freeze well and make wonderful jam.
Annual Growing Guide for Coastal Northern California
This chart is for use in the cooler coastal areas of Humboldt & Del Norte counties. Warmer conditions inland would change these recommendations somewhat. We recommend the book ‘The Humboldt Kitchen Gardener’ by Eddie Tanner for more information, including an inland growing chart. For many crops, if you wish to enjoy them continuously, you’ll need to plant more than once (known as succession planting, as noted below). ‘GH’ means that the plant can be grown at the indicated time in a greenhouse.