Garden of Eatin'

The Winter That Never Was… Yet

My bare winter garden... because it's been too warm

We’re having a really bad winter. And by “we,” I really just mean me. While the rest of Los Angeles is rejoicing in our sunny 80°F days (uncommon in winter, even for us), I’m doing a snow dance every day (must. snowboard. soon!) and mourning my winter garden that never was. (Or more optimistically, not yet.)

Our winter started out unseasonably chilly and cloudy. I usually sow seeds in October or November, but by that time the ground was already too cold and most of my beets and radishes never germinated. The ones that did germinate are still no more than 6 inches tall, straining for sunlight the last couple of months.

Beets and radishes somewhere in here

Only in mid December did we finally experience some “normal” winter weather, soon followed by a delayed Indian summer. Consecutive weeks of heat and sun have been hard on the plants, and my dinosaur kale (which I’ve only begun to harvest) is starting to bolt already.

Prematurely bolting dinosaur kale

On the upside, the tomato plants I’d started over the winter as an experiment are finally starting to thrive.

Winter tomato plant finally thriving in uncommon heat

The garden is pretty bare compared to how it looked around this same time last year. My rainbow chard is rather diminutive, my snow peas at a standstill. My turnips sprouted and stopped, my carrots seem confused.

Diminutive rainbow chard

Snow peas at a standstill

Carrots seem confused between winter and summer

The raised bed that I’d planted at the end of summer is giving me hope, though. My fava beans have grown over 4 feet tall, shading the red cabbage during the hottest part of the day. I’ve harvested fava beans, komatsuma, spinach, mizuna, rapini, and lettuce from this little 4×6 plot, proving that you don’t need a lot of space to grow a lot of food.

The saving grace of the garden

Onions and garlic are starting to sprout, and just the other day I stuck a few more seeds and cloves in the ground, hoping to take advantage of the warmer weather.

Onions and garlic starting to sprout

My perennial artichokes are multiplying rapidly and I’m looking forward to plenty of pretty purple buds in the spring. By then, maybe “winter” will finally come and the rest of my garden will come up too.

Artichokes multiplying rapidly

Has it been unseasonably warm where you are?

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Lindsay
    January 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Our weather can’t seem to make up its mind, which has been problematic for our baby plants (started, admittedly late, from seed).  Just when everything was starting to be recognizable as lettuce, peas, chard, etc., it turned nasty cold out.  I can tell the plants feel very tricked and hurt.  

    • Linda Ly
      January 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      I’m starting a few seedlings right now to get a head start on spring, but I have a feeling that Murphy’s Law will take over and we’ll end up with a delayed and very cold winter soon!

  • Kara
    January 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    It is so strange!  I’m up in Sonoma County, and during the day it has been sunny and almost 70 degrees, and at night it is dropping into the 30’s…. today on my way to work it dropped down to 25 degrees (Twenty five!  That is insane!) but by lunchtime, it felt like summer.  My poor garden is incredibly confused.

    • Linda Ly
      January 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Forget my garden being confused. I think my wardrobe would be even more confused!

  • Laura
    January 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    It seems like this winter has been off for everyone. In Wisconsin, we have yet to see snow, and that is just unheard of. We are slated to get 6 or so inches tomorrow, but it has been in the 50s all week. Crazy!

    Hope you see some snow out West soon and start getting some winter gardening weather.

    • Linda Ly
      January 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      Maybe the snow god is taking a break after giving us so much snow last year? California had several feet of snow even through July.


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