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Cool Season Gardens

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

As Southern Californians, we are truly blessed to live in a climate that allows us to grow fresh vegetables year round. Even though January isn't typically considered a prime gardening month, I have great success growing my favorite cool winter crop - lettuce.

Winter gardening is still a bit of a gamble here in San Diego. Most of the country would be concerned with frost, but we might be more concerned with Santa Ana winds and heat that bolts our beloved lettuce!

If you're up for a trying some new varieties, visit the San Diego Seed Company online ( and check out specific varieties that are tried and true for the San Diego region.

Brijette Peña, owner and founder of San Diego Seed Company, has some winter planting advice that may surprise you: she recommends planting from seeds, not purchasing nursery starts.

She also recommends starting the seeds in small pots instead of sowing directly into the soil. Benefits of doing this: being able to control the spacing of the newly germinated plants, and protection from garden insects that attack seedlings as they emerge from the ground.

San Diego Seed Company specializes in growing and selling varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers especially suited to San Diego. Peña explains that her seeds produce crops that are more resistant to local plant diseases and pests, and are better-adapted to our specific environmental conditions and soil structure, meaning more and better pickings at harvest time.

Here’s a quick checklist of what to plant right now:

ARGULA – Planting now will give you a milder flavor than hot-weather crop.

BEETS – Bull’s Blood and Chioggia have showy leaves that give a wintering garden a splash of welcome color.

CABBAGES – Try the Copenhagen Market Early Variety for fast growth.

CAULIFLOWER – The lime-green spiral of the Romanesco is a thing of beauty.

CARROTS – Find out what real “baby carrots” taste like. The baby carrots marketed by commercial growers are usually just regular, rather tasteless mature carrots cut down into cute, “baby” shapes.

CHARD – Harvest the first young leaves for a fresh winter salad.

DILL – Delicate yet distinct flavor. Pluck the leaves for salads, save the seeds to flavor pickles, dressings and breads. The Long Island Dill variety produces abundant seed-heads.

LETTUCE – Harvest leaves often for your table, and the plants will continue to produce.

RADISHES – Crisp and refreshing in salads and stir-fry. Try the “watermelon” variety for their gorgeous pink center.

If you aren't up for gardening during the winter months, it's important to keep your beds covered. Consider a cover crop that adds nitrogen to the soil and protects soil health.


The San Diego Master Gardeners are here to help and their website offers a wide variety of data that is accessible by going to their website. Here's a link to download their Vegetable Garden Planting guide

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