Even in Southern California, it’s starting to get chilly! While early winter isn’t a time when Southern Californians revel in their gardens’ bounty, there are still some things you can (and should) do to enjoy your favorite pastime this time of year. (And brisk weather or not, gardening will probably be a welcome relief from everyday holiday activities.)

Alyssum Wonderland

For a bevy of color, Southern Californians can plant Alyssum Wonderland from seed just about anytime of the year.

Photo Credit: Bodger Seeds Ltd

Ageratum

With its puffy blue blooms, ageratum puts on a good show in frost-free areas of Southern California.

Photo Credit: Gerald Burke

Beautiful garden

With a little planning, a Southern California winter garden can be a thing of beauty.

Photo Credit: Gerald Burke

First off, there’s still time to sow some seed. When it comes to your vegetables, plant asparagus now (it may take time to germinate), as well as your beets, carrots, cabbages, kales, and head and leaf lettuces. You’ll get your crop of leaf lettuce first because head lettuce takes longer. I suggest trying several leaf lettuces, including the red ones, and mesclun and romaine. And don’t forget to start your short-day onions from seed, as well as garden and sugar peas. (Of course, if you want immediate gratification, you can buy most of these as starter plants.)

And don’t forget the flowers! Winter’s the perfect time to sow seed of calendula, cosmos, ageratum, lobelia, alyssum, mimulus, nasturtium, annual salvia, silene and sweet pea. With proper care, you’ll enjoy these beauties for months.

Even though it’s a little late, you can still try some bulbs and roots, too. Most spring-flowering bulbs should have gone into the soil weeks ago, but you may have some luck with blooms as long as you get them in the ground before January. With proper cooling before planting, tulips, polyanthus narcissus, medium-cup narcissus and giant trumpet daffodils may still give you lots of spring color. Your Dutch iris, sparaxis, anemone and ranunculus should bloom, too. You might even have some luck with vegetable roots, as well as strawberries. Just make sure they’re still plump and alive-looking (and, again, that you plant them before January)!

If you’re looking for quick results, get to the garden center for those cool-weather bedding plants. They’ll last you into early spring. Some good candidates are pansies, violas, larkspur, delphiniums, campanula, cosmos, coreopsis, dianthus, carnations, cyclamen, lupine, nasturtium, ornamental cabbage and kale, petunias (don’t forget to try some of the new Wave® varieties), calendula, snapdragons, stock and sweet peas.

And, of course, as winter descends upon us, we can’t forget the holidays. Gardeners are always happy to receive gifts that’ll help them in their hobby! Consider garden gloves, trowels, dibbles and heavy work tools like lopping shears, pruners, spading forks, shovels and rakes. Don’t forget portable greenhouses, which can help in propagation. And for many gardeners, a potting bench in the right place is a welcome addition and makes work easier. Garden benches and kneeling pads make great gifts, too.

So even though it’s getting chilly, don’t be afraid to get out into your garden. In Southern California, you really don’t have to wait until spring to enjoy all that your garden has to give. There’s plenty of beautiful color to enjoy and delicious fruits and vegetables to savor all winter long!