Gifts From The Garden In Winter (AKA — I Heart California)

January 10th, 2017 - filed under: The Farm » Flora

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I don’t mean to brag, but man I love our California winter growing season. Southern California in December, January, and February, is a lot like many other parts of the country in early to mid autumn, I think. Temperatures reach the high 50s and into the 60s during the days, and drop to the low 40s, even the high 30s, but *rarely* hitting freezing, through the night. And it stays like that until things begin warming up in spring. We have intermittent showers, rarer in recent years with the drought, but pretty dang consistently so far this year, which is AWESOME. We’ve had weekly, even bi-weekly, downpours for over a month. And my garden is loving it!

So needless to say, the growing season is year-round here, and gardening in winter is a special kind of fun. It’s the time of year we get to grow all the yummy cool-weather crops that would otherwise wilt or bolt in the warm, waterless weather we experience for the entire rest of the year. Crucifers! Root veggies! Broccolis and cauliflowers and cabbages, oh my!

I love it, and even though the last quarter of grad school had me completely 100% neglecting my entire yard (hello, weed overgrowth from hell!), I did manage to get a good crop into the ground before the end of summer, and somehow this rain has kept things growing with my absolutely minimal involvement. It’s actually kind of amazing. I ignored it for 10 weeks, and now suddenly all these delicious foods are popping up every other day. Wahoo!

Here’s what’s been going on:


This was actually my last big haul from summer/fall, at the very end of August. I loved those crimson sunflowers so much. ♥

I’m growing three types of kale this year: purple curly, lacinato (dino), and green curly. It’s kind of hard to tell but this is my basket piled high with kale (and a wee piece of purple cauliflower). I can harvest one of these kale mountains every 3-4 days.

And these beautiful, fat fennel bulbs, now that I’ve finally had success growing fennel this year. We roast the bulbs and juice the tops. Waits is a fiend for fennel juice!

The bestest broccoli I ever did grow, with gorgeous, full heads that stayed super tight right up until harvest. *sigh* So dreamy.

And this cauliflower. My goodness this purple cauliflower, it was taller than Waits!

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This year I also had my first major success with ginger root! I planted starts from my most trusted and beloved Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and they did not disappoint. When I harvested these and saw how well they’d grown, I was almost in tears I was so happy. (yes, I am a garden geek!)

Side view:

Alien food.

Every year I grow legumes. More and more every year, because I see protein — and the localization of it — as an inherent flaw in many vegan diets. I dream of the day when I can grow all my own super-local protein! Until then, little bit by little bit. ♥ This is a mix of Pintos and Borlottis.

Blue Speckled Tepiary beans — a rare heirloom variety.

A recent harvest, with broccoli, rainbow chard, dill, two loofahs, white radish, ginger, and calendula.


And that’s about it for my garden these days. But, now is the fun part of plotting and planning for springtime! I’ve been poring over the Rare Seed Catalogue from Baker Creek, and I can hardly help myself from ordering one of everything!

Tell me friends, what have you been growing? Or if it’s too cold where you are right nw, what are you planning for spring?

Happy gardening!


♥ PS – One of the very best things about gardening — meeting teeny tiny new friends! ♥

  • Kelly

    Holy moly, I’m so envious of your CA winters! What a fantastic haul. Love all that fresh ginger

    I may have missed it in your Farm archives/previous posts, but I’m curious whether that wooden trellis-type thing is meant to keep out critters. I bought a house last year and had my first backyard garden this past summer, and the deer and rabbits were insatiable! I don’t mind sharing a lil bit with them, but they decimated my tomatoes. Is this something you’ve dealt with?

  • Shannon

    Your garden is amazing! I’ve been getting an itchy to grow my own food! Since I live in a small apartment in the Midwest, I think I might start with some herbs or greens in a windowsill but I’m still doing some research

  • Sarah C.

    I have *just* been looking through my seed catalog and dreaming and wondering if we’d hear about your garden soon – so thanks for this! And, yes, I’m jealous. I live at 5K ft, so even though our winters are relatively mild we do get freezes and don’t have the winter growing season you do! I’ve never really had a super-successful garden here (in NM) actually, and I think it might be because I start too late in the season and then the fiery, fiery sun burns things up in June and July (I love it but plants don’t always). So I think this is the year I’ll be doing indoor starts and early transplants. Did you do a post once on indoor starts? I’d love to be directed to it if possible. My official last frost date in April 18, so when do you think that I ought to start seeds indoors?

    And that purple cauliflower – WOW!

  • Sarah C.

    Oh, and what do you then do with the cauliflower stalk and leaves – anything to do with all the lovely green stuff besides compost?

  • Becky Carpenter

    All that amazing food! It’s so great that you can grow in the winter – in snowy Boston, it’s just not really feasible. I’m so jealous of how beautiful and HUGE everything from your garden is! Can’t wait to grow herbs and tomatoes on my roof this spring!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oh that’s so exciting, I love roof gardens! Happy (hopefully soon) gardening Becky!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Sarah, I did a series on indoor starts ages ago, at the very beginning of the blog. Still great info though! Check out these:

    Hope that helps!

    And re: the cauliflower leftovers, I suppose you could juice the leaves. But really, they just go into the compost I know what you mean though — seems like a lot of wasted matter!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Window gardens can be really productive! Especially if you can commit the space to setting up a whole table beneath the window, you can actually do a whole little indoor container garden. Worth looking into at least!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hi Kelly,

    The wooden trellis is more for looks and for privacy than it is for keeping any critters out. We are in the middle of a city so there’s not many critters (besides skunks which root and pull of my starts, grrr!). But nothing like deer or rabbits. That’s a *really* tough problem and I know my godparents who live in the foothills had to build mesh net cages on pvc pipes to cover their raised beds. I’m sure there are lots of solutions online, but so far I haven’t personally had to deal with that. Sorry!

  • Sarah C.

    Get a Guinea Pig – they eat greens!

  • vegyogini

    I have neither outdoor space nor a green thumb, but I get very swoony over your gardening posts! I’m especially enchanted by your massive purple cauliflower and kale mountain.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That cauli was soooo pretty (and so delish). Glad you enjoy the garden pics! ♥