Written by Kelsey W.
If you’ve lived in Southern California for any length of time, you probably already know that it’s possible to grow vegetables all year long in many communities, whether you have an open-air garden in the backyard or you have some container vegetables in a window in your home.
However, the vegetables you planted in the summer might be a little leggy at this point, or they might not have the fruits or vegetables they once did during their prime growing season. As we march through December and enter the true winter months in SoCal, you may want to take advantage of the growing season for cold-loving plants.
Take a look at the following types of vegetables and their growing requirements to see if any of these healthy options might suit your winter gardening adventures.
Go to the Root of the Vegetable
One of the best types of vegetables to add to your garden in the winter is a root vegetable. What are root vegetables? Some delicious examples include carrots, potatoes, and onions. You have two easy options for growing root vegetables in the winter. You can plant little seedlings, or you can grow them from seeds.
Growing your winter root vegetables from seedlings is usually a faster process than growing the plants from seeds. However, the one caveat is that growing root vegetables from seedlings may mean that your vegetables look a little bent out of shape when they come out of the ground.
If you accidentally damage any of the roots while planting your seedlings, the vegetables that eventually grow from those seedlings may appear bent. However, they won’t taste any different than the straight-as-an-arrow carrots you can find in the grocery store.
If you decide to try your hand at growing root vegetables from seeds, don’t be afraid to place your carrot seeds quite close to one another. They enjoy growing in bunches. For example, carrot seeds don’t need to be any more than about one inch apart, planted about a quarter inch below the surface of the soil.
If you decide to plant onions, those plants should get a little more room. About two to three inches apart in each row is sufficient for your seeds, and placement about a half inch below the soil will keep them warm and happy while they grow in your winter garden.
Potatoes usually need the most amount of room when you plant their seeds, and they need to go into the soil a little deeper than other types of root vegetables. Put your potato seeds about 10 inches apart, and make sure the seeds are somewhere between one and three inches deep in the ground.
One of the reasons you want to plant potatoes a little far apart is because it keeps the above-soil growth from completely shading the soil, which can result in smaller potatoes.
Explore These Vegetables for Spring Harvests
Now that your winter garden is full of delicious vegetables, it’s time to add some spring vegetables to the mix. Your kale, spinach, and cabbage will grow in the winter and continue to produce well into the spring (with good care, you’ll also find it easy to grow kale all year long; the plant can get monstrously big and bountiful!).
Here are some winter vegetables that will love growing in your garden for a beautiful spring harvest:
Plant your celery in an area that gets a lot of sunlight, and make sure the soil is very loose when you place your seeds in the ground. For a hearty spring kale harvest, make sure that your plants get full sun, and if you put them in the ground rather than a container, give them about two feet of room to grow.
Cabbage is another winter/spring vegetable that loves full sun. You’ll definitely want to feed your cabbage as it matures, as it’s a very hungry vegetable and needs rich organic matter in its soil. If you choose to plant a bed of scallions, make sure that the soil never gets too dry. They like growing in a slightly moist environment.
For your arugula plants, try to find a place with full sun. The seeds only need to sit about one inch apart, and it only takes about a week for the seeds to germinate. They might take a little longer to germinate if the weather is particularly cold. Not only can you enjoy arugula as a winter or spring vegetable, but you can even plant it in the late summer for an extra harvest in the fall.
For your peas, you can wait the longest to put them into the ground. You shouldn’t have any issues if you toss them into the soil in December, but any time after the new year is fine, too, for a beautiful spring harvest. If you choose to plant young pea plants, give them about five inches of room and make sure they have a sunny spot to grow. Try to mix some compost into the soil, too, for excellent results.
Yes, Many Vegetables Grow All Year in Southern California
In much of Southern California, backyard gardens can grow all year, especially when plants are mature and happy in their pots or in the ground. However, you may want to trim back the leggy tomato plants and towering pepper plants once the winter rolls in to encourage healthy new growth in the spring or summer.
Some of the vegetables that you can grow, whether it’s spring, summer, winter, or fall, include asparagus, cauliflower, lettuce, radishes, turnips, and Swiss chard. Honestly, with enough care, you can keep many vegetable plants producing throughout the year. But don’t forget to trim those plants back every so often.
For example, cutting back your year-round vegetables can also help the late-season harvests taste better because plants like tomatoes will stop making new flowers and send all of their energy into the existing fruit.
Bear in mind, however, that trimming your vegetable plants in Southern California might not completely stop them from producing new flowers and fruit. Our conditions here are often so wonderful for backyard gardens that they can’t help but keep growing every month of the year!
The same is true for leafy vegetables. For example, the kale plants that you put into the ground in December for your spring harvest will probably continue to grow with wild abandon throughout the year.
If you want to continue your harvest for as long as possible, simply avoid removing the bud at the top of the plant, near the center. This “terminal bud” needs to remain on the plant for it to continuously produce new leaves for harvest
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