Zone 9 winter vegetables

It’s high summer and your vegetable plot is inordinately productive. For the vast majority of grow-your-owners, May to September represents delicious abundance, while October to early spring implies miserly dearth. To understand that this is not the case takes a leap of faith and a commitment, but trust me: this gardening graduation from fair-weather, sun-kissed hobbyist to rosy-cheeked, thermal-donned buccaneer will reward you well. Crinkled savoy cabbages and Tuscan kales of the deepest emerald green, succulent spears of purple sprouting broccoli, crunchy, sweet, finger-sized carrots and plump leeks are all easily within your reach. Is there a catch? Well, only that you need to act now to reap the benefits later.

Winter brassicas

If you want to plant cabbages and other brassicas now, buy a vigorous plug plant. Photograph: Juliette Wade/Gap Photos

Cauliflowers, cabbages and kale, plus brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli, come under this label. While these long-season crops should have been sown back in April, it’s still possible to get hold of plug plants from garden centres and nurseries – look for F1 hybrid varieties (cauliflower ‘Boris’, for example, or purple sprouting ‘Red Fire’ and cabbage ‘Tundra’), because they’re more vigorous. Plug plants (professionally raised in greenhouses) are ideal for first-time growers.

Plant them in an open, sunny site with caulis, cabbages and kale 40cm apart each way; Brussels sprouts 50cm apart; and the sizeable purple sprouting at 80cm widths.

Push 5ft-tall bamboo canes around the edge of the bed, top with an upturned plant pot and cloak the lot in butterfly netting. Water in dry summer spells and hoe occasionally until they get established.


It’s too late to sow them this year, but have a word with allotment holders – they are bound to have some spare seedlings. Leeks are planted “bare-root” (ie with no compost around their roots), so, if you are given a clump, water it well then thin into single plants. An open, sunny site deters fungal problems such as rust. Make holes 10-15cm deep with a dibber (or a stick) at 20-25cm spacings. Drop a leek plant into each one, water it in well and then cover the bed with fine, insect-proof mesh to protect against leek moth and allium leaf miner. The odd hoe and water till the weather cools down is all the attention they need.


If you sow carrots now, you should have delicious baby carrots from October to April. Photograph: Zara Napier/Gap Photos

Here’s a nifty trick: if you sow carrots later in the summer (ie between now and early August), the cold weather will halt their growth. The result? Delicious baby carrots from October to April. ‘Autumn King’ types are renowned for winter hardiness, so opt for these if you garden alongside or above the Pennines; otherwise, any type seems to work.

Sowing in dry soil can be tricky, so make your drill slightly deeper than normal (4-5cm) and give it a thorough soaking. Once sown, cover with earth and firm it down well, but don’t water in. Don’t risk root-fly attack; prevent it by covering the whole row in fine, insect-proof mesh (such as Enviromesh).

Spinach and swiss chard

Leafy beets, sweated down in butter and liberally dressed with black pepper, make a nutrient and flavour-rich side dish. A single row of perpetual spinach or swiss chard started off now will stand all winter, only becoming inedible as it runs to seed in April. There’s only one variety of perpetual spinach, but you will find numerous forms of swiss chard: white-stemmed ‘Lucullus’, multicoloured ‘Bright Lights’ and, my favourite for flavour, red-stemmed ‘Fantasy’.

August sowings can be too slow to bulk up in short summers, so squeeze a row in now, keeping it well watered until it’s established. A drill of each, 3 metres long, will provide ample pickings for a family of four. It doesn’t need cloching and, in winter, avoids any pests and diseases.

Hardy salad leaves

Hardy leaves like lamb’s lettuce thrive in cool, wet weather. Photograph: Alamy

Hardy leaves provide wonderful ingredients: rocket, landcress, mizuna, komatsuna, mustard, winter purslane, corn salad (lamb’s lettuce), endive, chicory and radicchio – your culinary repertoire won’t know what has hit it. Hardy salads thrive in cool, wet weather, but it’s too late to sow them in autumn if you plan to crop them outside. Follow the same guidelines for sowing carrots and give them a good dousing in times of drought. Covering them with a glass or rigid plastic cloche in late October keeps them soft and palatable right through till they run to flower in April.

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Best winter veg to grow

The winter garden needn’t be devoid of life. On the contrary, it can be home to an array of winter crops that provide fresh ingredients for seasonal meals.


Robust vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, beetroot and turnips shrug off the worst of the weather, with no adverse effect on flavour. On top of these familiar favourites, you could also try your hand at lesser grown plants like skirret and chicory.

It’s a good idea to have a roll of fleece and some cloches to hand, too. Hardy crops are unlikely to be killed even on the coldest nights, but they can help maintain the quality of the roots and leaves for eating.

Many winter and spring veg crops are sown in the warmth of August – check out these winter veg crops to sow in August.

Discover some of our favourite winter veg to grow, below.

Robust vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, beetroot and turnips shrug off the worst of the weather, with no adverse effect on flavour.


These bulbous vegetables are perfect for adding to soups and for bulking out stews. Watch this video for advice on how to grow turnips from seed.

A turnip ready to harvest


Celeriac can be used as a purée or to serve with roast meat. It’s an easy crop to grow that’ll perform well, even in poor summers. Protect from the worst weather with fleece or cloches. Find out how to grow celeriac.

Harvested celariac corms

Brussels sprouts

Love them or hate them, a Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without some buttery Brussels sprouts. Once planted, make sure they’re firmed in well to avoid windrock.

Brussels sprouts ready to harvest

Purple sprouting broccoli

Sprouting broccoli are robust plants, so they make ideal winter crops. Harvest your spears when the flowers have developed but are not yet open. Go for the central spear first to encourage side shoots to develop. Find out more in our sprouting broccoli fact file.

Purple-sprouting broccoli ready to harvest


Cooked with a generous handful of mushrooms, chard makes a tasty pasta sauce. The colourful stems look great in an ornamental border, too. Check out these ways to combine edible and ornamental plants for more ideas.

Freshly-cropped red, orange and yellow-stemmed Swiss chard


Chicory can be roasted, wilted or added to salads. Go for the lettuce-like, ‘non-forcing’ varieties, which can be overwintered with the help of fleece and cloches.

A chicory plant


Cabbage is a winter staple and can be eaten raw, cooked or preserved. Check out this video for advice on planting winter cabbages.

A winter cabbage ready to harvest


Mizuna has a peppery flavour well suited to salads and as a garnish, as you would with rocket. Find out how to sow mizuna for a winter harvest.

Narrow, deeply-serrated mizuna leaves


A delicious side dish or stirred through a creamy pasta sauce with plenty of garlic. Kale responds to having its leaves removed by growing more, providing plenty of repeat harvests.

Advertisement Kale ‘Black Tuscany’

Carrots are perfect with roasts, in salads, as a soup and in cake. Follow the advice in our carrot grow guide to get your winter crop on the go.

A freshly harvested bunch of carrots

Mary’s Heirloom Seeds

Zones 10 has a long growing window for gardening. With a last frost date of January 30th or earlier and first frost date as late as November 30th to December 30th. First and last frost days may vary by 2 weeks (or more depending on the weather).

If you’d like to get a jump-start on Spring and Fall planting, it is possible to extend your season by starting seeds indoors. A simple setup might be a shop light over a table or as elaborate as a heated greenhouse or multiple racks with lights.
We hope that our USDA Zone Specific SEED planting guide with be a helpful tool in your garden planning and planting!







Transplant: all remaining indoor seedlings


Start seeds outside: BEANS, Cantalope, Chard, OKRA and Southern Peas,



Start seeds outside: OKRA and Southern Peas


Start seeds outside: OKRA and Southern Peas
Start seeds outside: OKRA and Southern Peas

Plant Seeds outside or indoors for Fall: Beans, Celery, Collards, Corn, Eggplant, Okra, Bunching Onion Southern Peas, Peppers, Pumpkin, Summer Squash and Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Turnips and Watermelon

Plant all HERB and FLOWER seeds outside

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The 10 Best Fall Garden Plants to Grow

Article Summary: Information about vegetables that grow well in the fall for hardiness zones 8-11 and 5-7 can be found in our overview below. A comprehensive look at ten vegetables, their growth rates, as well as an overview of the USDA hardiness zones to guide you through deciding which plants are best to grow in your fall garden.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published 8.29.15 and updated for fall 2019.

Fall is a beautiful season of changing colors, colder weather, and plants fortifying against the coming winter. Luckily for USDA hardiness zones 8-11, some of these natural events don’t occur except for a change in temperature. Thermometers drop from a balmy 98⁰ to a chilling 68⁰, a difference noticed mostly in the switch from tank tops to short sleeve shirts.

Of course the primary concern is, “Could it be too late to start my own garden?” Luckily, no. fall is not too late to start a garden. In fact, there are a variety of vegetables that thrive during the fall season, making fall a lesser known yet great time to grow.

(For our Game of Thrones fans)

For our friends concerned about potential frost ruining your fall garden plants, known that if you begin planting by September 29th then you can see a harvest as early as November 10th. That means home grown vegetables can be used in festive dinners, on kabobs at tailgates, or just to impress family and friends. Of course, starting your fall garden plants sooner gives you more flexibility when it comes to harvest timing. Being in Florida, we often plant our fall garden over a period of time, starting in mid-September.

If a surprise frost does present a concern for your fall garden, use these tips to combat the cold.

Find Your Hardiness Zones

The Hardiness Zones “are the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The map is based on the average annual low temperature, divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones” according to the USDA.

Gardening in Hardiness Zones 8-11

Zones 8-11 represent areas with annual average minimum temperatures of 10⁰-45⁰ F, which are great for fall gardening. These are found from the coasts of Washington and Oregon down through the coast of California, across the coasts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, as well as most of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Florida is entirely made up of Zones 8-11 as well as central to southern Georgia and South Carolina.

Fall Vegetables

There are six fast growing vegetables that thrive during the fall gardening season in zones 8-11:

TURNIPS: Wait 40-60 days until the first harvest. Turnips can be mashed, roasted, grilled, added to a hearty soup and they pair nicely with other root vegetables.

SUMMER SQUASH: While the name may be misleading, this subset of squash includes yellow summer, yellow crookneck, and zucchini that may be grown in the fall. The first harvest happens 40-55 days after planting, and they are known to be high in anti-oxidants. Squash may be grilled, sliced, mashed, made into bread, and put into a soup. The best way to preserve their nutritional value during preparation is to steam them

BROCCOLI: They can be harvested 75-90 days after planting. They can be used in soups, salads, or steamed and covered with cheese, but a great way to use home grown broccoli is to serve it fresh with some hummus or ranch.

BELL PEPPERS: Taking a little longer to mature, the first harvest can occur in 80-100 days. These wonderfully useful peppers come in radiant colors such as green, red, orange, and purple that also boast their own unique flavor profile. Bell peppers are known for their practicality in cooking, as there is almost no wrong way to prepare them.

POTATOES: These starchy tubers are vegetables. However, they are nutritionally classified as a starch as they are used in place of other starches such as bread, pasta, and rice. They are ready to harvest in 85-110 days.

PUMPKIN: It takes the longest to mature with the first harvest happening 90-120 days after planting. It is a cultivar (A plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding) of the squash. They are great in breads, pies, soups, and made into “pumpkin rolls”.

Rustic is the most appropriate description of these vegetables. All of them are singularly versatile as well as work together. They are quick and simple to grow, look beautiful, taste delicious, and are healthy as well. Enjoy a fast and simple growing garden with these fall vegetables.

Use our Plant Spacing Chart to Determine Your Spacing Needs

Gardening in Hardiness Zones 5-7

Planting a garden in the fall isn’t only for the temperate areas of the United States. Middle America, or zones 5-7, are prime for growing with the correct plants. August through November is full of opportunities to show off home grown vegetables with colorful and festive feasts.

Four veggies that will grow quickly in zones 5-7, and taste phenomenal include:

SPINACH: This very green and leafy super vegetable is ready for harvest in 40-50 days. 1 cup of cooked spinach (about 2 ½ cups raw) is an excellent source of nutrients providing the body over 100% of Vitamin K and A needed to protect from inflammatory problems, oxidative stress-related problems, cardiovascular risks, bone issues, and again prostate cancer.

BEETS: Harvest occurs at 50-65 days. The beet is a beautiful purple root with a variety of cooking options. Steamed, sliced, or boiled, this root adds earthy flavors to any meal. 1 cup of sliced beets eaten once or twice a week will protect you against heart disease, birth defects, and colon cancer as well.

CARROTS: It can be taken from the ground in 55-70 days. It is named for its rich supply of the antioxidant, beta-carotene. These are great raw, cooked, sliced, chopped, and steamed.

CAULIFLOWER: Ready for harvest in 55-60 days. It is used in many cancer prevention diets such as bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers. Like its color, this vegetable is different than others because of the unique health-promoting compounds it carries. They affect three body systems that are closely connected to cancer prevention: the detox system, the antioxidant system, and the anti-inflammatory system.

To make planting and caring for your fall garden plants easier, check out our Garden Grid Watering System

Turn your Fall Garden Harvest into a Feast

Fall Vegetable Garden Recipes

Planting a garden involves more than finding the right plants for the season, but picking a group of vegetables that work together in a meal. Something to go with that heavy turkey and gravy on Thanksgiving is a Carrot, Cauliflower and Beet Salad with Orange Anise Dressing. It is a colorful, rustic salad lightly dressed with some zest that will have people talking at the dinner table. A fresh component usually complements a heavy Thanksgiving meal.

Another, involving more meat, is the Honey Turmeric Pork with Beet and Carrot Salad. This is a good balance of meat and vegetables in one recipe. The earthy flavors of these vegetables pair well with the succulence of a well prepared piece of pork. A healthy and balanced recipe is great for the body and for the holidays.

Spinach are prepared in a variety of methods. Salads, sandwiches, shakes, and sautée are the usual methods of intake. However, Spinach chips are a new and easy way to enjoy them. Using the ingredients olive oil, salt, and pepper to season, they are baked until dark and crispy. Spinach chips retain their nutritional benefits, taste delicious, and replace less healthy snack options. Whether for a tailgate or a lunch to go, these chips are gaining popularity and could be growing the product on a porch or backyard.

Zones 5-7 thrive with some of the most nutritious options to grow in the Fall season. The sooner planting commences, the sooner personally grown vegetables can be enjoyed in decadent yet simple recipes. It doesn’t matter where or when it is, there is always time to begin a garden.

Fall is a favorite time of year for growing at Garden In Minutes®. Theresa Traficante (Founder of GardenInMinutes) always grows pumpkins during the fall and uses them to make her pumpkin pie recipe for Thanksgiving – trust us it’s fantastic. If you’re growing anything this fall, share in the comments below. Fall is a lesser known season for gardening and we’re determined to change that!

Growing Vegetables In Winter: Learn About Zone 9 Winter Vegetables

I’m quite envious of folks who reside in the warmer regions of the United States. You get not one, but two chances to reap crops, especially those in USDA zone 9. This region is perfectly suited to not only a spring sown garden for summer crops but also a winter vegetable garden in zone 9. Temperatures are mild enough for growing vegetables in winter in this zone. Curious how to get started? Read on to find out about zone 9 vegetables for winter gardening.

Growing a Winter Vegetable Garden in Zone 9

Before choosing your zone 9 winter vegetables, you need to select a garden site and prepare it. Choose a site that has at least 8 hours of direct sunlight each day with well-draining soil. If you are using an existing garden, remove all old plant detritus and weeds. If you are using a new garden site, remove all grass and till the area down to a depth of 10-12 (25-30 cm.).

Once the area has been tilled, spread 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) of coarse, washed sand and 2-3 inches (5-8 cm.)

of organic matter onto the garden surface and till it into the soil.

Next, add fertilizer to the bed. This can come in the form of compost. Be sure the bed has adequate phosphorus and potassium as well as nitrogen added to it. Mix the fertilizer in well and water the beds. Allow them to dry out for a couple of days and you are ready to plant.

Zone 9 Vegetables for Winter Harvest

Fall crops do much better when started from transplants than from seed, and transplants should always be used for tomatoes and peppers. Buy the largest transplants available. Or you can start your own plants earlier in the season, and transplant them. Plant shade tolerant crops between taller veggies like tomatoes.

Fall planted vegetable crops are categorized as either long-term or short-term crops, depending upon the cold tolerance of the crop and the date of the first killing frost. When growing vegetables in winter, be sure to group plants together according to their frost tolerance.

Zone 9 vegetables for the winter garden that are frost tolerant include:

  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mustard
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Spinach
  • Turnip

Group the short term veggies together so they can be removed after being killed by frost. These include plants like:

  • Beans
  • Cantaloupes
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Okra

Water the garden deeply, once a week (depending on weather conditions) with an inch (2.5 cm.) of water. Monitor the garden for pests. Row covers or plastic can be used to protect the plants from pests, although they’re usually not as rampant during this time. Covering can also protect plants from wind and colder temperatures.

Be sure to select only cultivars that are suited to your area. Your local extension office will be able to direct you to the right plants for your area.

One of the greatest advantages of gardening in Zone 9 is the ability to garden year-round. While much of the country is shoveling snow, Zone 9 gardeners will still be shoveling dirt and compost in what can be their very productive winter gardens.

Zone 9 Winters

Winters in Zone 9 are known to be mild with very little, if any, time spent below the freezing point. The USDA list the chance for the first frost in Zone 9 as December 16th (and that date is slowly moving deeper into the winter), with some parts never seeing frost, and the last chance for frost bing January 30th. That is only a two month window, that is slowly shrinking, with a chance of frost. Of course, these dates may be off by a little bit, but these are the dates that the current dates that the USDA has settled on.

Zone 9 Winter Crops

Because of the mild winters, there are many crops that can flourish here during the winter. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Carrots

Most of the crops will not only tolerate Zone 9 winters, but will flourish in them. Leafy greens that do not grow well most of the year will grow nicely without bolting to seed. Broccoli and Cauliflower grow well and produce tight flowerettes. Cabbage and Carrots also fair very well in Zone 9 winters.

For most of the winter evenings will be mild and no special care will be needed. All of the above listed plants can tolerate frost for short periods, which it is uncommon for Zone 9 to have frost for longer than short periods anyway. There are however, times when Zone 9 will experience hard freezes.

Hard Freeze Suggestions

There will be many parts of Zone 9 that will not experience a hard freeze during a given winter, but there will be a few nights that some areas will. Most crops will require protection from a hard freeze, and there are many commercially available products that will protect the plants from the cold, but here are a few simple methods to protect your plants with items you probably already have around your home and garden.

Cotton Blankets – Covering your crops with a cotton blanket overnight will help protect them from a hard freeze. Some gardeners even place a 24 hour hand warmer on the soil under the blanket to help keep the temperatures under the blanket at a comfortable range for the crops. Be sure to uncover the plants when the temperatures rise to help prevent complications from the plants being covered.

Water Plants Before Freeze – The day before a hard freeze is predicted thoroughly water your crops. The water will add insulation to the soil as well as the plant cells. Damp soil tends to stay warmer than dry soil, and the warmer the soil, the warmer the plants around it.

Bring Plants Indoors – If any of your crops are in containers, bring them indoors for the evening. Keeping them in a garage or room of the house should provide enough warmth to protect the plants from even a long term freeze event.

Enjoy Gardening in the Winter

Some crops, such as spinach and lettuce, will only grow well during the winter in our warm climate and while there is the possibility of a few challenges from a rare hard freeze, gardening in Zone 9 winters can be quite rewarding.

Edible Landscaping – The Winter Vegetable Garden in Warm Climates

Lettuce is a widely adapted winter vegetable in most zone 7, 8, and 9 climates. It grows and can be harvested all winter.

You can garden through the winter in almost any climate. Even northern gardeners can enjoy harvests of root crops and greens in the winter if they are willing to put in the effort to protect plants with cloches, cold frames, or hoop houses. However, gardeners in mild winter areas, such as coastal California, Oregon and Washington; Arizona; Texas and Florida, can really bask in fall and winter’s glory. While gardeners in cool summer areas, such as coastal Northern California, Oregon and Washington, look to extend and protect fall planted veggies through the damp, cool weather of winter, gardeners in southern Arizona, the Gulf Coast, Texas, and Florida are loving the cool temperatures to sow and grow a variety of vegetables that don’t survive the heat of summer. In some areas, such as southern Florida and Texas, they are even growing warm season crops of tomatoes in winter, but that’s a topic for another article.

In this article, I’d like to focus on the crops and techniques you can use to grow a winter garden in hardiness zones 7, 8, and 9. If you’re gardening in a colder climate, check out these stories I wrote on a Fall Greens Garden and Season Extenders to enjoy fresh produce in your garden this winter. In the mild winter areas, temperatures rarely get much below freezing for very long in winter, although sometimes temperatures can dip into the teens. There’s still time to plant many cool weather loving crops in most of these regions.

Why Plant a Winter Garden?

There are many reasons to plant a winter garden in these areas. Often, it’s the only time to really be able to get cool season crops such as broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and carrots to grow properly. Plus, there’s less work involved.

October is a great time to plant in these mild areas because the heat of summer has passed, but the soil is still warm. The days are shorter, the sun’s intensity less, and there are fewer insects and diseases around to attack your plants. This allows cool weather seedlings and transplants the luxury of growing slow and strong to maturity. For the gardener, there’s less weeding, watering and care involved and more comfortable weather to work in. Weeds will germinate, but they will not grow strongly during the short days and are easy to remove. Moisture holds in the soil longer in fall so the garden requires less watering. There’s time to harvest plants as needed, knowing they will hold in the garden longer than if growing under high heat conditions.

Preparing the Winter Garden

Start your winter garden by turning the soil, removing perennial weeds and grasses, and amending it with compost. While winter rains are welcome in most mild winter areas, in cool damp winter areas such as Seattle, cool rains can mean plants rotting. Consider growing plants in raised beds. This will keep the soil well drained and help avoid water logging. Amend the soil before planting and add an organic fertilizer at or just after planting time. That’s usually enough to carry your plants through the winter.

What to Plant?

Colorful carrot varieties can be sown in fall in zones 8 and 9 for a winter harvest. Choose varieties adapted to winter growing.

Peas make a great fall crop. Snow peas are easier to grow than English peas because you don’t have to wait for them to fill out to eat.

Winter is cool season crop time. Greens, such as arugula, spinach, collards, lettuce, Swiss chard, mustard and kale, thrive. Root crops, such as carrots, beets, onions and radishes, grow well. Brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, form large heads. Legumes, such as fava beans and peas, grow and flourish. All these cool loving vegetables have better flavor and texture than if you tried to grow them during the heat of spring or summer.

Which crops to grow and the timing of planting in your specific area will depend on your location. In zone 7 gardens and the Pacific Northwest, greens are probably the best bet for an October planting. In zones 8 and 9, you have a broad palette of cool season crop options. Look for varieties adapted to your region and for winter planting (check out the resources listed at the end of this article). For example, ‘Winter Keeper’ beet, January King’ cabbage and ‘Royal Chantenay’ carrots are some varieties adapted to winter growing conditions.

Garden Maintenance

In most of these areas winter means regular rainfall, so watering is usually not an issue. Unless you’re in the Pacific Northwest, it’s still a good idea to mulch your plantings to preserve the soil moisture and keep the weeds away. In the Pacific Northwest, the abundant winter rains combined with consistently cool temperatures can lead to rot, slugs and snails. Mulching just makes it worse.

While most pests are not active in winter, cabbage worms and slugs are two that never seem to rest. Watch for cabbageworm droppings on your Brassica plants and spray Bt to control them at the first sign of their activity. Slugs and snails are a particular problem in cool areas. Protect raised beds with copper flashing. Slugs and snails don’t like touching copper. Add iron phosphate baits, such as Sluggo, around plants. Consider covering plants with a floating row cover tucked tightly into the soil to prevent the snails and slugs from entering the bed. Row covers have another benefit.

For gardeners concerned about freezing temperatures, the row cover can protect plants into the low 20 degrees F, while allowing light, rain and air to the plants

Harvest crops as needed. While many vegetables are picked and finished, such as cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and beets, some keep producing in winter. Many greens, such has spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix, can be cut a number of times to the ground and allowed to regrow in winter. As long as the temperatures stay cool, they will not bolt. Broccoli heads will continue to send out side shoots, and peas and fava beans will continue to flower and fruit. Even if they go into a holding pattern during December and January, they will quickly start growing and producing again when the longer days arrive in February.

So with some planning and proper maintenance you can enjoy a winter garden that provides fresh produce to your family right through the dark days until spring.

Other Stories on Winter Gardening in Warmer Climates:

A Winter Vegetable Garden (Southern California)
When to Plant Vegetables in USDA zones 8-11
Salad Season (Texas)
Planting Cool Season Vegetable Beds (Arizona)
Florida Garden Guide

Planning the Fall and Winter Vegetable Garden

By Sara Malone, Sonoma County Master Gardener

Now that the summer vegetables are in the ground and you are waiting impatiently for the tomatoes, melons and peppers to ripen, the time is perfect for deciding what you are going to grow in the cool season and how you are going to prepare for it. Most of us do not have – nor do we want – unlimited space for vegetables. That means that you will have to grow the cool season crops in the same space now occupied by the aforementioned warm season plants. The cool season in much of the county, especially the milder areas closer to the coast, is more productive than the warm season. The cool season vegetables, such as brassicas, beets and chard, also tend to be the ones that are really loaded with nutrients. So on the days that it is too hot to do much other than check your irrigation and make sure that your tomato stakes are secure, plan your fall garden!

The first thing to decide is what you want to grow. This will depend both on what you like to eat and where you live. In my mild East Petaluma garden I can grow lettuce all winter, for example, as long as I protect it from the hardest rains. We eat a lot of salad and I like fresh greens, so a goodly area of my beds devoted to salad greens is a must. I like chard and could eat it several times a week, but my husband is less enthusiastic about it, so I only make room for a few chard plants. I like to have beets for winter salads, fava beans are a luxury and hard to find in the markets and fresh peas are a delight. I take a perverse delight in never having to buy garlic, so I always plant enough to last me a full year. So, I need to plan for all of those plants. Start your planning the same way: make a list of the cool season vegetables that you want to grow and are suited to your area (I don’t do well with Brussels sprouts, for example, as they are quite tall and my garden is windy – they blow over!) If you want a list of cool season vegetables, check out the ‘Vegetable Planting Summary’ in the Master Gardener Documents on the left-hand navigation bar. You can also read ‘Growing Salad Greens’ and ‘Growing Vegetables’ in the same place, and some of the Vegetable Articles under ‘Plant/Vegetable Articles’, especially ‘Making a Personal Vegetable Calendar’. The planting summary notes ‘c’ or ‘w’ for cool or warm season. Once you have your list, note when they need to be sown or transplanted in Sonoma County, all of which is covered in the planting summary.

Each garden should reflect the tastes of the gardener(s). For example, I like chard and could eat it several times a week, but my husband is less enthusiastic about it, so I only make room for a few chard plants.
Refer to the article “Making a Personal Vegetable Calendar” for ideas.

Once you have your list of winter vegetables and when each needs to be planted, you are ready to figure out how and when you are going to harvest the warm crops and leave space to plant the cool ones. For example, you can plant corn, cucumbers, squash and beans in July in Sonoma County, but if you do, you may not have room to start your beets, carrots, peas, radishes or brassicas in September. So don’t over-plant your summer vegetables at the expense of your winter ones. It is ok to have a bare bed for a month or so as you wait to put in the fall crops. While tomatoes keep producing – they have fruit on the vines, anyway – until November, I find that the late tomatoes are not very tasty and I do better doing one final harvest for the saucepot and then pulling them out in October and planting peas. I use the same supports but put up mesh for the peas.
Timing is especially important with cool season vegetables – they generally need to get started with enough warm weather so that they get a good root system going and get big enough by the time the really cool weather sets in. That is why most of the cool season crops go into the ground (either as seeds or as transplants) in Sonoma County in September, and August often isn’t too early. It is sometimes difficult to think of ‘cool’ season anything when we are having our Indian Summer and the temperatures are sweltering, but the days are indeed shortening and the average first frost date in Sonoma County is October 15.
July is a planning month for most of us – it’s too hot to plant much and it is productive to use the time to ensure a bountiful harvest of cool season crops. Vegetable starts begin to show up in the nurseries in August and September, and seeds are available any time. If you’ve never grown cool season vegetables, give it a try! The cold, wet days of winter seem warmer and cozier with your own vegetables on your table and in your larder!

Winter gardening in northern California

A student intern transplants a large grass near our Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. Winter is a good time to move plants from one spot to another.

by Taylor Lewis, Nursery Manager

As soon as I see the color begin changing on the trees outside, a list of jobs springs to mind. Some I won’t do at any other time of the year, some I can’t do at another time, and the rest I do because I’m out there anyway.

Just plant it!

This is a great time of year to be putting plants in the ground in whatever form you’ve got them: plants from our plant sales, seeds, or bulbs. This is also a good time to transplant that shrub, tree or perennial that’s just in the wrong place.

To prune or not to prune

Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture, demonstrates proper pruning techniques for one of our volunteers.

Listen to your plants; this is the time of year that your plants are communicating with you. Is that plant that was spectacular over the summer or fall now looking dead? It’s probably not anything you did! Many herbaceous perennials like purple dome Michaelmas daisies (Aster ‘Purple Dome’), coneflowers (Echinacea spp.), Cascade Creek California goldenrods (Solidago californica ‘Cascade Creek’), Sedum spp., and California fuchsias (Epilobium canum) go winter dormant, so to keep things tidy in your garden, “If it’s brown, cut it to the ground.” Many herbaceous perennials will not only grow again from the base of the plant, they will put out additional growth after a nice winter nap.

This same strategy does not apply to woody perennials. Woody perennials do not need to be cut to the ground. In fact, woody perennials are rarely pruned at all this time of year. For the most part, these are the plants in your landscapes that do not die back, like trees, shrubs (Salvia, lavenders) and vines. Unless there are serious structural issues or they are scraping against your house, don’t prune them – keep them with as many leaves as possible for photosynthesizing purposes during the next light-limited months. If you do prune them, it sends a signal to the plant to grow at the same time it’s trying to go dormant. This pushes new, tender growth that’s susceptible to cold.

Leaf it be?

I suggest keeping most of your tree leaves where they are at, and not just because I don’t like raking! Leaves make excellent free mulch, help add warmth to tender plant roots, break down and once again become used by the tree they came from. If you grow roses or fruit trees, that’s the exception. Their leaves tend to harbor fungus and mold pathogens, which lie in wait until spring when warmer weather fuels their havoc. Keep the areas beneath these types of plants leaf free as much as possible.

Protect your investment

When you hear about temperatures dropping, don’t just think about the plants you have that are frost tender. Anything new in your yard may be at risk. At the nursery, we grow plants that are well-suited to our region’s USDA Zone 9 temps, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t play by the rules. An established plant can take the cold, it’s the newly planted ones I worry about because they don’t have the root systems to bounce back. Cold temperatures are the main reason why we lose plants over the winter. Shop your local nurseries for frost cloth or keep some old sheets on hand to cover your new garden additions should the weather get bitter.

Feast or famine

Isn’t it always a good time to provide your plants with extra nutrition? Not necessarily. The general rule for using fertilizers is to provide them during your plant’s peak growing season. Adding the popular types of fertilizers you mix with water will signal the plant to regrow; that new growth will not be as hardy and will be vulnerable to frost. Consider instead adding an organic fertilizer to slowly feed your plants over time with a broader range of required nutrients.


Walk your landscape and check mulch levels; now is the time to resupply those layers. Purchase or borrow a tool cleaning/sharpening kit for those rainy days when you can’t get in the garden. Watch for large rain puddles that might be a hidden basin or a patch of heavier soil that needs amending. Reprogram your irrigation timer, or simply turn it off during the rainy season, and make sure you water at least once a month if there’s no rain.

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