Our Winter Vegetable Garden

Favas n’ peas

It’s a blessing and a curse to live in a year round growing climate. Winter here in Southern California is the most productive time for most vegetables. It also means that there’s no time off for the gardener or the soil. In the interest of better note keeping, what follows is a list of what we’re growing this winter in the vegetable garden. We’ll do an update in the spring to let you know how things grew. For those of you in colder climates these would be “cool season” vegetables and it’s never to early to start planning.

For just about the tenth season in a row we’ve sourced all of our seeds from two venerable Italian companies, Franchi and Larosa. Why? You get a ton of seeds in a package and they’ve always, without exception, germinated well and yielded beautiful vegetables most of which can’t be found in even the fanciest restaurant in the US. Frankly, every time I try another seed source I’m disappointed. I also like Italian cooking with its emphasis on flavorful ingredients prepared simply–no fussy sauces or complicated recipes.

Salad Makings

First off an endive and escarole mix from Franchi Seeds recommended and sold to us by our friends at Winnetka Farms. Looking forward to this one.

“Cicoria Variegata di Castelfranco”
A  bitter and beautiful chicory, also recommended by our Winnetka pals along with:

“Lattuga Quattro Stagioni”
A butterhead type lettuce.

Arugula “Rucola da Orto” from Larosa seeds.
You can never plant enough arugula, in my opinion.


Rapini “Cima di Rapa Novantina”
I grow this every year. It’s basically my favorite vegetable–much more flavorful and easier to grow than broccoli.

Spigariello broccoli.
A large plant resembling kale. You eat the leaves and flowers. Used in “Minestra Nera” or “Black Soup,” which consists of this vegetable and cannelini beans. More info here.

Fava and bush peas
I’ve rotated in legumes in the bed we grew tomatoes in during the summer. The fava came from seeds saved by the Winnetka farm folks and from our own garden. The bush peas are “Progress #9” from Botanical Interests.

Chard “Bieta Verde da Taglio”
A tasty, thick leaved chard from Franchi seeds.

Dandelion greens, “Cicoria Selvatica da Campo”
A truly idiot proof vegetable. Bitter and easy to grow.

Parsnips “Prezzelmolo Berliner”
The first time I’ve ever tried to grow parsnips.

Radishes “Rapid Red 2 Sel. Sanova”
Mrs. Homegrown complains that I never plant radishes. This year I addressed that grievance.

Beets “Bietolo da Orto Egitto Migliorata”
A repeat from last year, these are tasty red beets.

Buck’s horn plantain also known as “Erba Stella”
An edible weed.

Stinging nettles
One of my favorite plants. It’s begun to reseed itself in the yard. Useful as a tea and a green.

For more information on when to plant vegetables in Southern California, see this handy chart. And let us know in the comments what you’re growing or plan to grow during the cool season.

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  1. I’m in SoCal too, (Riverside) and have a pretty extensive winter garden, even more expanded than last year. This is the best time of year to garden, but I hear you on wanting a break from the toil. Luckily, the cooler weather makes things grow slower and with fewer bugs, so it is much less work this time of year. I have the following in my garden: carrots, lettuces, chard, collards, arugula, cilantro, parsley, bok choi, cabbage, beets (and more beets), leeks, kohlrabi, brocolli raab, and sugar snap peas. Still to come: kale, more beets, more carrots, lentils, turnips, and parsnips. You will love parsnips, but they take forever and a day to sprout and grow. For us, don’t worry about the advice “sweeter with frost” – kind of a moot point here, and they are darn tastey whenever you get them. We roasted them and had it in a pasta with balsamic vinegar and rosemary – delicious! I’m going to try and put two plantings in this year, if I have room.

    More bare root fruit trees are going in this year! I have two cherries (low-chill varieties, Minnie Royal and Royal Lee) to plant with my other cherry, and another round of stone fruit trees apricots, peaches and plums. All chosen to have staggered harvest dates for continual fruit production through the summer.

    If my husband and I get around to breaking up and tearing out a random concrete patch in the backyard, I will also plant the lemon and lime trees that we currently have in pots, and get a third lemon to group with them. We are planting all of our fruit trees in clusters of three, following the advice at the Dave Wilson website for intensive planted trees. By the end of my 4 year garden plan, we should have 24 trees in our backyard, and will have year-round fresh fruit. That’s the goal anyway, once they all start producing. Currently pondering grapes and an asparagus patch, but I may not have room for those. It’s all going to be as jam-packed as I can make it, and still have the trees/plants thrive!

    And have room for the dogs of course, I’m not a complete heathen after all.

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