My garden today: Thai Green Lettuce - grown from Seeds of Change seeds. Also onions from starters from Sunset Nursery, and some arugula just sprouting in the foreground.

I thought I’d share an exchange that I recently had with my friend Angelo Logan – regarding what crops to grow in the winter in Southern California. He wrote:
Joe, I am looking for advice about winter gardening. I want to know what to plant now, if there is anything i can plant, or is it too late. If you can give me some advice that would be great, if not can you refer me to some one?

My response is below. Note that this is pretty climate-specific – It should apply to pretty much anywhere in the Los Angeles Basin… where we have this great semi-arid mediteranean climate that’s splendid for growing  just about anything any time.  Depending on where you live and grow, this may or may not be applicable. I highly recommend asking someone who lives around for advice on what works for your area. You might go to a local garden/nursery store or a farmer’s market and ask people who are selling starter plants.

Around here, there’s a lot you can plant now. And these cool-season recommendations are applicable from around mid-October through early-March (around then it’s time to get your summer crops in.) I don’t know about any books or websites specifically… but they’re probably out there.  Experiment and see what works for you – sometimes you can get away with unusual stuff.

The really broad general rule for winter crops is that stuff that you eat the leaves (like chard) is easier to grow in winter… stuff you eat the mature fruit (like eggplant) is more difficult to grow in winter. The stuff you eat the flowers (like broccoli) or the roots (like carrots) work pretty well too.

The following crops work really well to plant in Southern California winter:

  • perennials – trees, bushes, berries – including artichokes, many native plants, many spices (oregano, thyme…)
  • most greens: lettuce, mizuna, kale, chard, arrugula, mustard
  • most root crops: carrots, radishes, beets
  • most brassica family: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
  • others liking cool weather: peas

(Note: if we have a super-cold snap a “freeze” then many of these plants – especially the greens – will die. Most years in most places in the L.A. Basin we don’t have a freeze.)

The following crops don’t work too well in Southern California winter:

  • Warm-loving plants: basil, cucumber, tomato & family (eggplant, peppers)
  • Long-season-growing annual plants: watermelon, squash

My garden today - Broccoli from starters from Sunset Nursery. Planted I think in October or early November. The main heads have already been harvested and these are secondary heads ready for harvest for salad for tonight's potluck dinner.