If you live in California, cooler weather means leaves, roots, flower buds and pods in the vegetable garden.

English peas

Fresh winter vegetables are a real treat.

Photo Credit: Joe Seals


Few veggies are as easy as the humble radish.

Photo Credit: Joe Seals

Chinese Broccoli

Chinese broccoli has a robust taste.

Photo Credit: Joe Seals

There are many different vegetables that are at their best when temperatures are cool – and sometimes even cold – withstanding light to heavy frosts. The seed of these vegetables also germinate well in cool soils.

Our best time to sow seed or plant these vegetables in the Golden State is fall into winter. For those lucky California gardeners who don’t face an early summer, these vegetables can be planted into early spring as well.

Leaf vegetables include the commonly grown chard, all lettuces and spinach. If you want to get a little more ethnic, try planting collards, kale, mustard, endive and chicory. Leaf vegetables like water, so make sure you keep their soil almost constantly moist (drying only slightly between waterings).

Root vegetables include my favorites: beets, carrots and radishes. There’s also onion and its kin, leeks and garlic. Some old-fashioned root veggies that a seasoned gardener should try include parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and salsify. And some unusual roots – and root-like edibles – that I think are worth the growing effort are celeriac (celery root), fennel. (a bulbous stem, often sold in supermarkets under the incorrect name of “anise”) and kohlrabi (another bulbous stem, a mild relative of cabbage). Root vegetables like deep, rich soil.

Veggies in the flower buds category are represented by broccoli and cauliflower. Because these plants “head up” best when night temperatures average about 45-50° F, adjust your planting schedule so that the vegetables mature along with when your local weather experts predict such temps.

The pods, of course, are the peas, including English peas, snap peas and sugar peas. An odd relative that deserves more attention is broad bean (also called fava or faba), which also likes cool weather. But don’t think that all beans fit in this growing season – common beans are strictly warm-season vegetables. These veggies, too, like a regular watering schedule (but not as moist or as frequent as the leaf vegetables).

If you’re a gourmet gardener who’d like to give some Asian vegetables space in your yard, check out the specialty seed catalogs for bok choy, pak choy, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage (many kinds), Chinese mustard, daikon radish, garland chrysanthemum, tyfon and snow peas. (Then get your wok ready!)

Or maybe you’d like to try some European (and highly nutritious) salad greens. Here’s some of the easiest to grow: arugula, corn salad (mâche), cress, lamb’s quarters, orach, sorrel, and, of course, dandelion. The only critical practice in their success is to make sure they get even moisture, especially when the plants are young.

I’m always surprised at how many gardeners assume that once the summer garden is finished – and they’ve harvested too many tomatoes and too much zucchini than they know what to do with – the garden goes into shutdown mode. I’ve just given you nearly 50 reasons as to why that’s doesn’t have to happen.