Saturday, August 14, 2010

Now's the Time to Start the Winter Vegetable Garden

Do you want your family to eat healthy year-round? The healthiest, freshest foods are the fruits and vegetables you grow yourself. And in many areas of the West and South, the 365-day vegetable garden is easy to achieve. And now, summer, is the time to be planting the seeds and transplants for the vegetables your family will enjoy throughout the fall, winter and following spring.

Although we are still in mid-summer, this is the time to start your winter vegetable garden here in Northern California, as well as other mild-winter areas around the state and the nation. Most of this  planting can be done during the milder months of September and October (along with mid-August for some winter crops). For specific crop planting times for the various areas of California, refer to the UC Davis Vegetable Research and Information Center.

The winter garden bed should have many of the same characteristics as the summer garden: 
a sunny and level location close to the house;
a convenient water source; 
and, soil that drains easily. 
     Because of possible heavy rains in winter, raised beds can solve that drainage problem for homeowners living with clay soil. Mix in other soil amendments, such as compost and manure, to improve crop production in the foggy, wet, cold days that await.
     For foothill gardeners, a raised bed with wooden sides has an added benefit. Those structures can support a hinged, translucent top, such as glass, polyethelene or fiberglass…an instant cold frame to protect winter vegetables from low temperatures or heavy wind and rain.
     Starting vegetables in the heat of the summer, especially from seed, requires a consistently moist seedbed until the plants are up and growing. An automatic garden watering system, such as a battery operated timer that attaches to a faucet, can ease that process.
      Here are some of the winter vegetable varieties that do well in Northern California, how much room to leave between the plants in each row, and how much to plant for a family of four (with moderate appetites):

Artichokes: A bit of a challenge in the interior valleys. Easy to grow in coastal areas. Plant from roots, not seed. Green Globe; 4 feet apart; 5-10 plants.
Broccoli: Green Goliath, Green Duke, Waltham 29; 10 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Brussels sprouts: Jade Cross Hybrid; 24 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Cabbage: Earliana, Copenhagen Market, Savoy King, Burpee Hybrid; 24 inches apart;15 plants. 
Cauliflower: Snowcrown, Snowball Y, Purple Head; 24 inches apart; 15 plants.
Carrots: Nantes or Danvers half long, Short n' Sweet; 2 inches apart; 25 foot row.
Chinese cabbage: Michili, Pak Choi; 6 inches apart; 10 foot row.
Garlic: California Late, California Early, Elephant Garlic; 6 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Kale: Dwarf Blue Curled Vates, Dwarf Curled Scotch; 10 inches apart; 12 plants.
Kohlrabi: Early White Vienna, Sweet Vienna;  3 inches apart; 10 foot row.
Loose leaf lettuce: Ruby, Bibb, Salad Bowl, Green Ice;  6 inches apart; 15 foot row.
Peas: Mammoth Melting Sugar, Sugar Ann, Sugar Snap. 2 inches apart; 5 foot row.
Onions: Stockton Red, Stockton Yellow, Walla Walla, Texas White; 4 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Radish: Champion, Watermelon, Crimson Giant, Cherry Belle; 5 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Rutabaga: Victoria, Valentine, Strawberry; 3 inches apart; 15 foot row.
Spinach: Melody Hybrid, America, Bloomsdale Long Standing; 6 inches apart; 15 foot row.
Turnips: Purple Top White Globe, Shogoin (greens); 2 inches apart; 10 foot row.
Perennial Vegetables that need a lot of room:
Asparagus: Mary Washington, UC72, UC157, 500w; 12 inches apart; 20 foot row.
Rhubarb: Victoria, German Wine, Crimson Cherry; 2 feet apart ; 20 foot row.


  1. I believe that Rhubarb leaves are poisonous for dogs.

  2. Yes, it is the combination of anthraquinone glycosides and oxalates in the rhubarb leaves that are poisonous. Eat the stalks only, and in moderation. From :
    "During World War I rhubarb leaves were recommended as a substitute for other veggies that the war made unavailable. Apparently there were cases of acute poisoning and even some deaths. Some animals, including goats and swine, have also been poisoned by ingesting the leaves."

  3. I live in Southwestern Ohio...where can I go to find out if and what I can grow for a fall garden (next year) in my zone?

  4. Here are a couple of links from Ohio State University and the Master Gardeners of Ohio regarding fall planting in your state:

  5. When do we plant parsnips in Sacramento? I see conflicting sources saying to plant now or that planting now will cause the seeds to go dormant as the soil is too warm

  6. Can Kohlrabi be directly sown into amended garden soil? The UC extension guide says to set out in a sheltered area.

  7. According to Lockhart Seeds in Stockton, parsnips can be planted from seed here in June-July. Kohlrabi can be planted either in Jan.-Mar. and/or July-Sept.
    What are the optimal soil temperatures for vegetable seeds? Here is a link to a chart:

    Here is a link to a chart for planting vegetables in the Sacramento area.

  8. Hello Fred
    I'm in Los Banos CA. During the winter months and farm in Maine during the summer, here we are Feb. 1 2014 I want to plant a variety of things in a sunny spot where I was thinking of building raised boxes that woukd also serve as cold frames for inclement wether, what vegetables can I start now in hardiness zone 9b and harvest before I leave here the end of May. Thanks Lenny

  9. Among the vegetables you can plant here in February and harvest by May (if not earlier): beets, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, collards, corn salad, kale, leeks, leaf lettuce, peas, white potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips.

  10. Farmer fred- is it too late to plant any winter crops? If not what can I start now?

    1. Oct. is a good month!

  11. i just started my first crop of carrots for the deer, can i really replant have them thru winter, we live in the bay area of california...

  12. how about cucummber ? canwe plant them now in August in Rancho Cordova ca I saw somewehre it said you can start the seeds now