Winter Garden in Central California

Evening comes early now in Elderwood, CA. Mornings are chilly, yet the sun is still hot in the afternoon. It seems to be the perfect time of year to enjoy the fruits of winter gardening.

Many varieties of lettuce planted from nursery sets grow across the isle from broccoli planted from seeds.

I am not a gardener, but as a kid, I loved playing in the dirt. Nothing changed as I aged except now I have the time and space to play again. Each year I learn something new.

Vince read an article the other day that talked about growing enough food on an acre to make $20,000 a year. It told me to plant my plants much closer that they are supposed to be and to intersperse varieties. You can see in my broccoli bed above, I planted spinach and Swiss chard. Right now it looks pretty and sparse. That will probably change.

You can see at the end of my box some very healthy, happy onion sets in neat rows, those that the cats didn’t rearrange. Last year I learned that gophers love onions. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every day I would find a new fatality. This year I planted the sets in a raised bed with wire netting on the bottom to keep out those silly pests.

The rest of the box has not yet fully transitioned to a winter garden. I can’t bear to remove the marigolds. Last year I pulled off thousands of marigold flowers and kept ALL their seeds. I stored them in a clear plastic bag and only a few of the seeds escaped the solar cleansing of their sprouting power. This was one of the hardy few seeds that bore children.

Basil seeds, on the other hand, survived the Ziploc bags and are ubiquitous. The basil will wilt at the first frost, but they are all volunteers and I have more seeds than you can imagine. I cut them and keep them inside for Caprese salads, a favorite in an Italian household. The lemongrass seems indestructible. Along with cilantro, these spindly hairs of flavor spice up an Asian salad. Spinach and dill are reluctant to sprout. I’ve planted them both from seed packets I bought.

Vince wanted only flowers this year in this garden.

The pictures aren’t close up enough to show you that I do have a few flowers sprinkled in with the new strawbabies that I just planted yesterday from all the runners. I still have about 100 runners to plant somewhere if you’d like some strawberries for next spring.

I lined peas along the fence. The green starfish looking plant with light purple flowers at the end of the strawberries is a gift from my friend Sally.

I am also propagating more Mexican pansies that Manuel Jimenez cut from plants in the Woodlake Botanical Garden. The new ones sticking up against the fence behind the cauliflower look wilted now, but by spring I’m hoping that some of them make it. They have beautiful purple flowers and are very invasive, so if you have them, they are like mint – hard to remove.

Kale, hollyhocks may be in danger from either the ant, grasshopper or the truck, but I’m rooting for the plants to win.

I like to experiment, but not in an organized, scientific-write-everything-down way. A friend gave me some mint plants years ago. They took over my blueberries, so I tore them all out.

They still grew into a forest on the other side of the fence in my neighbor’s yard. I love the smell and the taste of them so I cut a few of them that started to invade my blueberry bushes again and stuck them into leftover pots. Guess what? You can’t kill them! They’re back. On the plus side, I hear that mint makes you lose weight. I guess it would if that’s all you ate.

In the picture below, you can see that I did plant some snapdragons for Vince. I planted two rows of spinach seeds to be a nice green contrast. Interestingly, cosmos, which had been planted this summer sprang up when I started watering, not spinach. And they didn’t stick to the nice straight rows I thought I had planted. Who knows what happened to all those spinach seeds.

Even the seeds love to frolic in the dirt. The flats of flowers I buy from the nursery are much better behaved.

Today I raked leaves to make a light blanket for the seedlings. I’ve heard that leaf mold is an excellent soil builder.

The cauliflower plants are big enough to see over the mounds of mulberry leaves, but I had to scratch a hole in them to find the strawberry plants.

Even though my garden is more walkway than garden, it’s amazing how many plants we can fit into this small space. My tiny garden produces much to keep me munching for the next few months. Imagine planting an entire yard as a garden!

So, are you gardening this winter? Or if you’re in Australia, this summer?

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

2 thoughts on “Winter Garden in Central California”

  1. I hope your garden grows well, Marsha, and that you are well too. Sadly, in Australia, we are gripped by a dreadful drought and the hottest spring on record. Our plants are dying. 😦

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  2. Your garden looks in much better condition than ours, which is bone dry. Mr ET has tomatoes growing prolifically and he is keeping them alive with tank water. Otherwise, there is nothing growing. My poor roses are in survival mode. Enjoy all your beautiful produce.

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