A Fall & Winter Gardening Guide For Southern California


Friends, let me sing the praises of the Fall and Winter gardens. Both of these cooler seasons have so much to offer us gardeners if we only do some simple planning beforehand. In fact, the first time I ever grew a garden in Winter, I vowed to never miss out again! In Southern California especially, this is the ONLY time we can grow some of the most delicious notoriously “Spring” vegetables. 


♥Your Winter seed shopping made easy!

I’ve assembled a collection of my favorite Fall & Winter Seeds so you can order the perfect starter collection without feeling overwhelmed. Click to view my Winter seed shopping list!


Here are some of the amazing benefits to growing a Fall or Winter garden:

Cooler weather. It’s pleasant to garden outdoors when we aren’t dripping in sweat and being bitten by mosquitoes.

Less pests and disease. I will not say the garden is devoid of pests in Winter, but the cooler weather seems to stifle the spread of pests and disease in the garden.

Less watering. Cooler weather and more rain means the garden needs much less effort on our part to stay alive.

Low maintenance plants. A lot of the crops we grow during Fall and Winter don’t demand frequent harvests and preserving like those Summer tomatoes or zucchini. A lot of cool weather vegetables can be harvested as needed and left in the garden to grow otherwise.

New crops to eat. One of the best parts about seasonal living and garden-to-table meals is the ability to eat what’s available. After a Summer filled with endless zucchini, tomatoes, beans etc. our bodies are thankful for the access to luscious brassicas, peas, lettuces, and more. 

When should I start seeds for a Fall & Winter Garden?

This stuns many gardeners, but in Southern California, many cool season crops need to be sown as early as August or September. I know that seems crazy, given our triple digit heat, but it is necessary for many of the Fall and Winter crops to have the time to establish their roots and leaves before our days shorten and the weather cools. That being said, there are still some crops on my Fall/Winter gardening list that can be sown throughout the months of October-March and don’t need to be started as early. Continue on to read about all your options!

Note: in zones 3-7 you might have to start as early as July. As always, I suggest you consult your local Master Gardener’s extension (find it on google) or ask your local nursery.

For zone 10b (here in Southern California) we don’t have a first frost until late in the year—sometimes not even until January or February—so I aim to have the vast majority of our cool season crops started by August and September and planted out in October/November. For a specific list of crops, along with monthly sowing recommendations, be sure to check out my Current Season Seed Schedule (available to all subscribers in my Garden Resources Library).

Starting Seeds for a Fall & Winter Garden

I start all my seeds outdoors in pots/containers this time of year because August-October are still very warm. The key is to make sure your seedlings are in shade on those super hot Summer days because they are technically cool season crops. The shade cover I use (pictured above) is the same one I discuss in my article on Protecting Your Garden in a Heatwave. For a full breakdown on my seed starting process and tips please read The Basics of Growing From Seed.

You’ll want to transplant out the majority of your cool season vegetable starts around late September or Early October here in Southern California. This will give them ample time to grow strong root systems and grow large enough to embrace the cooler weather. This is especially true for my favorite cool season vegetable: romanesco!

Read below for a list of the crops I will be including in our Winter garden this year, and then check out Where I Buy Seeds for a list of dependable and awesome places we buy seeds!

PS: any root vegetables (like carrots and radishes) can be sown around the same time you transplant out your other Winter seedlings. I wait longer to start root crops because they need the cooler temperatures.

♥ The photo boxes you see above are my favorite way to store seeds. Here’s a tip: use a 40% off coupon at Michael’s or wait until they go on sale there and grab a few! I have three total. Two for my purchased seed collection and a third box that is specifically for the seeds I have collected and saved myself.♥


♥Your Winter seed shopping made easy!

I’ve assembled a collection of my favorite Fall & Winter Seeds so you can order the perfect starter collection without feeling overwhelmed. Click to view my Winter seed shopping list!


Watering Made Easy

A newer habit I’ve started in Winter is to have a raised garden bed dedicated to cool weather crops that do well when directly sown. You can see the picture below (updated December 2021) that has patches of lettuce. One variety is spring salad mix, another is an asian baby leaf salad mix, and I gradually succession sow the other patches as the season goes on. This whole process has been made extremely simple by installing a Garden-in-Minutes Garden Grid

The Garden Grid divides your garden into squares for easy planning, but also has a series of small holes in the tubes to provide consistent and even water coverage. This is IDEAL for direct sowing and keeping your seeds evenly moist for optimum germination. So, if you want an easy watering system for a square/rectangular garden bed, definitely consider this handy product. 

Grow plenty of lettuce for the Winter by directly sowing some salad mixes at different times. Here you can see the different stages of lettuce growth. The Garden Grid watering system makes it very simple to stay organized and well watered.

My Favorite Cool Season Vegetables to Grow

Let’s talk some of the best crops you can grow during the cool season here in Southern California!

◊Romanesco, Cauliflower, and Broccoli!

These beautiful brassicas all share the same characteristic of forming heads. They are also notoriously finicky to grow in our mild Winter climate. Get these seeds started in August or Early September and keep them watered throughout the growing season. These brassicas like water!

The biggest threat to these brassica seedlings will be the cabbage moth caterpillars, so be sure to read my article on Preventing Cabbage Caterpillars and do a manual check for eggs on your seedlings weekly (at least).

Romanesco Cauliflower Seeds - $2.29

Is it art or food? Both! 'Romanesco' is not actually a cauliflower, but somewhere between a broccoli and cauliflower, with 5"-6" heads. First noted by Italians in the 16th century, it is now catching the eyes of gourmet chefs. Cooked, 'Romanesco' has a delicious nutty flavor and a texture similar to cauliflower. Easier to grow for fall harvest as a warm spring may delay heads until fall.

Belstar Broccoli Seeds - $3.49

Grow this star in your garden! Selected for its heat tolerance, it's great for spring sowing. The big, 6"-8" blue-green, tightly-packed heads of 'Belstar' are followed by many smaller side-shoots for multiple harvests. It also grows well in the winter in mild climates.

Snowball Y Cauliflower Seeds - $1.99

Flavorful, 6" snow-white heads in just 70 to 80 days means 'Snowball Y' is successful in short-season areas. The leaves naturally curl nicely around the heads providing self-blanching and protection from sun scald. Mature heads hold well in the garden, so they don't all have to be picked at once.

◊Celeriac (aka celery root)

Have you tried this unique vegetable? I grew celeriac in my 2020 Winter garden for the first time and now I consider it a staple! Celeriac (aka celery root) is actually grown for it’s bulbous root rather than the green stalks of celery you see in the grocery store. For a full grow guide on celeriac, check out Growing Celeriac: Tips From My Southern Californian Garden. 

Homegrown ‘prinz’ celeriac. A new staple crop in my Winter Garden.


These sweet root vegetables can be succession sown from October all through to the following Summer. I always like to have a patch of carrots somewhere in the garden. Some of my favorite carrot varieties to grow are Purple Dragon, OxHeart, and Carnival Blend. The Carnival Blend has multiple colors which makes it an easy option to have some colorful harvests!

Related article: Growing Carrots in the Home Garden~ A Grow Guide

◊Turnips & Radishes

Sweet little garden treats! You can sow turnips and radishes anytime through our Fall and Winter season. Just remember that germination of seeds will be slower if the temperatures have been colder. This past Winter season I grew turnips and fell in love! They actually grew better than my radishes. The reason I lumped them together on this list is because they took up about the same amount of space, grew about the same height, and had the same growing requirements.


The other root veggie I just can’t get enough of! Many of you know that beets were my garden nemesis for years. I could not figure out how to grow them! Because of my struggles, I have now written “I Finally Grew Some Nice Beets ~ Here Are The Tips I Tried” to document what finally worked for me.

I have to recommend ‘avalanche’ beets because they are the sweetest and most delicious beets I’ve ever tasted!

Carnival Blend Carrot Seeds - $2.69

Grown and eaten in Asia and Europe 1,000 years ago, these colorful carrots are available once again. Just like the popular orange carrots, red, purple, white, and yellow carrots contain plenty of vitamin A and other healthful nutrients. Carnival Blend carrots can also be harvested when only 3"-4" long for gourmet baby carrots.

Market Express Turnip Seeds - $2.49

Join farm-to-table chefs and add this premium Japanese salad turnip to your garden repertoire. Pure white and mild, 'Market Express' is a great baby turnip in salads, crudité trays, and pickling, as well as traditional cooked turnip dishes. The roots have a smooth texture and slightly sweet, fruity flavor that upgrades homegrown meals, and the greens are also delicious. Fast growing, enjoy 2" baby-sized turnips in only 30 days, or grow them to full size (4"–5") in just 40 days.

Avalanche Beet Seeds - $2.49

These sweet beets have a mild flavor that can make a beet lover out of anyone! A 2015 All-America Selections winner with 2"-3" creamy white, round roots. An added bonus—white beets don't stain your hands, cutting board, soups, or stews red! Keep roots covered with soil or mulch for best color and flavor. Disease resistant to Cercospora and leaf spot.

Leafy Lettuce

Also known as “cut and come again” or baby lettuce, these seeds can be sown closely together to form what resembles a lawn of lettuce greens. Once the greens reach about 3-4 inches in size (or whatever is specified on the seed packet), you can simply grab a handful and cut about an inch or two above the ground to preserve the growing part of the plant. Since lettuces are quick-growing, they can be sown anytime during out Fall/Winter gardening season just like radishes and turnips!

Leafy lettuces are prime candidates for succession sowing. Make sure you read How to Succession Plant to Maximize Harvests and download my Succession Planting Interval Chart.

◊Head Lettuce

This type of lettuce is more similar to the heads of romaine you’ll see at the grocery store. They form heads that you can harvest all at once. If you are a fan of crunchy lettuce, head lettuce is for you! For example, romaine is a great head lettuce, along with buttercrunch.

Head lettuce can also be harvesting using the “cut and come again” method, but it is done a little differently. It is easier to simply cut the outer leaves off the head as it grows and leave the inner growing parts alone. Using this method to harvest can provide you with bountiful baskets all season long!

Some of my favorite head lettuces are:


Parris Island Cos

Little Gem

Tom Thumb


Buttercrunch Butterhead Lettuce Seeds - $2.49

'Buttercrunch' is a vigorous grower with a creamy yellow interior, buttery flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture, pleasing palates since 1963. Small heads are perfect for a single-serve salad. The compact size makes it a good container variety, and it's also attractive in the flower-garden border. All-America Selections Winner.

Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce Seeds Organic Heirloom - $2.49

Crunchy, sweet leaves, buttery-green heart, and vigorous growth are a few ways to describe 'Parris Island Cos' romaine. Developed by the USDA and Clemson University around 1950, this nutritional, 10"-12", upright lettuce will soon be a favorite in your garden and your kitchen, full grown or as a baby green in as little as 21 days. Ideal for lettuce wraps. Plants resist tipburn and are mosaic virus tolerant.

Little Gem Romaine Lettuce Seeds - $2.49

Also called 'Sucrine' or 'Sugar Cos', 'Little Gem' is an English heirloom that is a small variety of romaine, but has the succulent sweetness of a butterhead. The glossy-leafed heads are a petite, 6" tall and 4" wide—the perfect size for an individual dinner salad. The tender, blanched heart is ideal for any recipe that calls for "hearts of romaine."

Edible Peas ~ Sugar snap, Podded, and Snow

Ah, the candy of the Winter garden! here in zone 10b, the Fall and Winter months are the most ideal time to sow peas. Check out my Guide to Growing Edible Peas for all my favorite tips and varieties.


One of the easier heading brassicas to grow compared to cauliflower and romanesco, homegrown cabbage tastes sweeter and will keep in the fridge for a long time. One of my favorite varities ‘brunswick’ is extremely low maintenance and grows very large heads!

As mentioned before, watch out for cabbage caterpillars on your seedlings and try companion planting cabbage with calendula! While planting your cabbages with calendula is not a foolproof solution to pests, I do find that they are a winning combination in my Winter garden. Calendula also made my list of Top 10 Flowers to Grow in a Potager Garden!

◊Leeks, onions, and garlic

These three aromatic alliums are a MUST in the cool season garden although you won’t be harvesting them until late Spring and Summer. I sow my leeks and onions in large trays (like the picture below) as they can handle pretty rough transplanting and can be squeezed into small spaces all around your garden. Out of the three, I think leeks are the easiest to grow. Leeks can be left in the ground until you want to use them and are basically pest free! For more tips for growing leeks check out How to Grow Leeks ~ An Easy Cool Season Crop.

Garlic is a little different, so make sure you check out my Garlic Growing Guide before planting in October.

Sugar Magnolia Snap Pea Seeds - $3.89

Wow, a purple snap pea, tender and delicious! 'Sugar Magnolia' isn't just a famous Grateful Dead song, it is also a beautiful, fine-flavored, edible-pod pea with purple flowers. Long hypertendrils (vigorous, multi-branching tendrils) act as extra sturdy supports for 6'-7' vining plants, creating an airy structure that also helps prevent mildew. A few of these open-pollinated peas may be speckled with green.

Red Acre Cabbage Seeds - $1.99

Perk up cole slaw or your favorite stir-fry with this gorgeous, deep-red cabbage. The sweet flavor of cabbage fresh from the garden is much better than store-bought. Solid heads form early on small, compact plants making 'Red Acre' an ideal choice for small gardens. Resistant to splitting and cabbage yellows disease. Heads store exceptionally well in the refrigerator or root cellar.
Now available in organic!

King Richard Leek Seeds - $2.29

Leeks' mild but rich onion flavor and cold tolerance make them a favorite in home kitchens and gardens. This onion relative has compact stems that thicken but do not form bulbs like onions. 'King Richard' produces extra long white stems early. Enjoy fresh, grilled, sautéed, and added to soups and stews. Cold tolerant to 20°F and can be left in the garden for an extended harvest.

◊Fava Beans

These beans are amazing for the soil as well as delicious to eat! In fact, the leaves and flowers are edible as well, making it a worthwhile venture to save some space for these beans. Fava beans actually do well directly sown in the garden in the month of October. They are slow growing and probably won’t give you beans until the spring—-but remember, the leaves are edible too!

Related article: What Does Direct Sowing Vs. Transplanting Mean?


These alien-looking vegetables taste a lot like broccoli stems. They are crunchy and sweet when grown in cool weather. Space them and treat them similarly to radishes, turnips, and beets. In my garden they do well directly sown.

◊Asian Greens

Stir fries are the ultimate Winter garden food. We like to grow a wide assortment of greens so that our meals have variety and stay interesting. Some of our favorite asian greens to grow are: Bok Choy, Tatsoi, Joi Choi, Pai Tsai, Mizuna, and various mustard greens. The options are endless! Many greens can be sown anytime in Fall/Winter here in SoCal.

Windsor Fava Bean Seeds - $3.29

Reward your taste buds! Young pods can be eaten like snap beans. Pinch off the foliage tips for one of spring's tastiest greens. Best of all, shell the beans and cook when still green for a sweet, flavorful treat. The beautiful white and black flowers on sturdym upright plants make 'Windsor' pretty enough to use in flower beds! Favas are exceptionally cold tolerant (to 10°F) and grow best in cool conditions (below 75°F). Sturdy 24"-48" tall favas require staking only in high wind areas. Caution: People deficient in an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) should not handle seeds, consume fava beans, or inhale its pollen.

Purple Vienna Kohlrabi Seeds - $1.99

Because of its turnip-like appearance, kohlrabi is sometimes misclassified as a root vegetable. Leaves stand out like little spokes on the sides and top of the edible, enlarged stem. You'll welcome not only kohlrabi's unusual shape, but also its crisp texture and wonderful, delicately sweet, nutty, and very slightly peppery. Eat it like an apple, or try it steamed, sautéed, or pickled, too! One cup contains 140% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Baby Choi Bok Choy Seeds - $2.69

This ancient, Asian green, also called pak choi, is just as excellent in a stir fry as in a marinated salad. Harvest at 5"–6" tall in only about 35 days for tender, baby choi. Plants are ideal for growing in containers, make a pretty addition to mixed containers, and resist bolting.


A leafy brassica that is both beautiful and edible! I understand that a lot of people do not enjoy eating kale, but it really is one of the easiest greens to grow, and one organic bunch at the grocery store can cost around $2-$3 dollars. One kale plant can provide you with bunches of kale alllll season long. I highly recommend adding it to your cool season garden and trying to cook it different ways. One of my favorite preparations is with caramelized onions. Once you have caramelized your onions, simply add the kale and saute to wilt. It’s delicious!


Spinach really enjoys cooler weather. I found that you can plant it densely so it essentially mulches and protects itself while growing. Finding a variety of spinach that is okay with our mild winters has been quite a task, but so far I have enjoyed growing ‘Viroflay’ and ‘Nobel.’


While celery can grow year-round here in Southern California, it really flourishes in our cooler season and has the best flavor. To get my best tips for growing celery, read The Easiest Way to Grow Celery!

Dazzling Blue Kale Seeds - $2.29

Be dazzled by the striking colors of this extra-cold-hardy kale--more cold tolerant than other lacinato types. The striking purple midrib pops against the blue-green leaves, some of which may take on more purple hues in the cool temperatures of fall. Lacinato kale is ideal for kale salads and other fresh culinary endeavors. Pick tender, baby greens for fresh salads, chips, or cooking, in just 30 days.

Bloomsdale Spinach Seeds Organic - $2.49

Be strong to the finish and eat your spinach! If you haven't grown spinach before, the freshness and quality of homegrown will win you over. 'Bloomsdale' is an early 1800's, dependable, open-pollinated variety. For growing tender, baby greens in as little as 28 days, you can sow seeds just 1" apart. Very nutritious—lots of vitamins A and C and iron. Grows great in a container too!

Utah Celery Seeds - $1.99

Imagine slicing that first, big, beautiful bunch of celery from the earth in your garden. You can harvest individual stalks when just 6" tall or wait for the bunch to mature. Celery grows best in climates with long, mild-temperature seasons, but with a few helpful tips, it can be grown almost anywhere.

Hardy Annual Herbs

This season is also a great time to fill your gardens with herbs that love the chilly nights and more mild days. Many gardeners call these herbs “hardy annuals” as they don’t mind a little frost. I list my top 5 cold tolerant herbs to plant for Fall/Winter in Cool Season Annual Herbs to Grow in Southern California.

Fall Planted Bulbs & Hardy Annual Blooms

You can still grow gorgeous flowers in Fall and Winter in warmer zones. Check out some of my favorite Flowers to Grow Through Winter in Southern California for some inspiration.

Other flowers, like sweet peas and poppies, benefit from being started in Fall, but won’t bloom until Early Spring. In mild climates, Fall sowing let’s them get a head start so they bloom early enough in Spring to avoid the intense Summer heat that arrives fast. Spring is very short here in Southern California. Definitely check out Growing Sweet Peas ~ A Lovely, Scented Cut Flower.

Spring flowering bulbs and corms can also be planted in the months of October and November, for a brilliantly colorful Spring show! I cover my favorite flowering bulbs for mild climates in Fall Planted Anemones, Ranunculus, and Narcissus for Southern California. 

Fall planted anemone flowers make the perfect Spring bouquets! They grow very well in Southern California.

Let’s Not Forget to Plant Native Plants for Wildlife & Pollinators!

Before this gets to be an overwhelming guide, I did want to note that Fall (once the days are still slightly warm but not scorching) is the perfect time for planting many California native plants. They establish best during this time and, since planting our own DIY CA Native Pollinator Garden, I have seen an increase in pollinator activity. I share the resources I used for planning our garden in Tips for Planting & Selecting CA Native Plants. 

When to plant out Winter seedlings?

When is it time to take out old plants and add new plants? This is probably one of the most common questions I recieve, and that makes sense. Here in Southern California, our seasonal changes are so mild that some plants don’t necessarily “die back” when it is time for the season to end. In other parts of the country the first frost usually kills the plants for good, so you have no choice but to transition to cold hardy, winter crops. The answer: when a plant slows down production, succumbs to disease, or when the season for maximum production has ended. 

Since we are technically a small space garden, it is even more essential to be able to yank out plants when they are not pulling their weight in the garden. Don’t worry, all plants we remove go straight into our compost system, which means they become the best food for the garden. You can read more about how composting works HERE. No waste!

I usually transplant out the first set of cool season crops in October/November. When it comes time to change the garden to different crops, we follow the steps I’ve outlined in Amending Your Garden Organically which closely follows a no-dig/no till garden method.

Late Summer “Second Wave” Planting

I’d like to talk about what I call “second wave” planting. In mid-Summer I sometimes like to start a second round of tomato seeds, winter squashes, basil, beans, corn, and other Summer crops. We are able to do this in Southern California (zone 10b) because our warm season is extra long. This is really optional, but if you have the space and want to extend your Summer harvest baskets, feel free to try some second wave seed sowing. Don’t forget to refer to my Current Seed Schedule if we share a growing zone!

A selection of homegrown beets. One of my favorite root vegetables!

Succession Sowing for Harvests All Season Long!

The Winter garden is full of prime crops for practicing succession sowing—things like radishes, lettuces, asian greens, and turnips! Succession sowing is a collection of methods that can increase the availability of crops in your garden and maximize your growing season. The good news is, I created a simple Succession Sowing Interval Chart for those of you who would like to learn more about it and practice this Winter. Subscribers can check it out in my Garden Resources Library and  learn all my tips in How to Succession Plant to Maximize Your Harvest.

How to Protect Your Winter Garden From Pests

Last Winter I REALLY struggled with birds eating all my directly sown seeds and baby seedlings. There’s also the pesky cabbage caterpillar that I mentioned previously. This is where DIY fabric row covers come in—-they changed the way I will garden forever! You can read all about the incredible difference row covers made in my garden (plus how to install them) in DIY Fabric Row Covers

Are You Ready?

I hope many of you will join me in growing a Winter garden. If you have some plans for your Winter garden or have any questions for me, leave them below! ↓

PS: Tag me in your garden photos with #FreckledCA on Instagram!

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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