Question for Northern California gardeners

I live in the Sacramento Valley and am wondering if there are any winter vegetable crops I could plant? Or does it get too cold (rarely below 35 degrees). I'd like to put my garden to use during the 'off' season.
Diane M
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are you kidding? there are literally dozens of greens to choose from, plus carrots, broccoli, beets, and peas.Tell us what you like, what your soil is like, rainfall or irrigation, and we will take it from there. I live in Michigan and right now one of my two gardens is completely green with greens. I will start eating that in a couple weeks.
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simy1 wrote:

here. Our soil isn't the best, but we plan to rectify that before spring. It's obviously much warmer here than in Michigan.
Diane
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Diane McGill wrote:

true, it is much warmer there. But that just means that you have more choice than I have. Basically, I have to limit myself to radicchio, collard and kale, arugula and garlic shoots, and I have to plant them well ahead of time.
Cold or not, I still planted broccoli raab and pea shoots last week. They will be ready in a month or so.
If your soil is so-so, and assuming that it is on the alkaline side (it being the Central Valley) may I suggest radicchio and other chicories, chard, peas and beets. Garlic shoots are always a cold weather treat here, and they will come up in a hurry for you to put in pasta and omelettes.
If you do know for a fact that it will rain a lot, kale will also do well. If it will rain a lot and you are willing to fertilize, collard, lettuce, bok choi, broccoli raab, and arugula (as well as the rest of the mustards, like mizuna) come into the picture. If the soil is not hard carrots and radishes are an option (no fertilizer), carrots being far more drought resistant than radishes.
If your soil is very hard just forget about the root crops except potatoes. If the soil is hard, potatoes, radicchio, and fava beans will help break it.
Once you have a well manured soil you will also open the option to have cardoon (best planted in July), potatoes and various cabbages, and your lettuce will improve in flavor and appearance. There are a number of small greens (notably mache and miner's lettuce) that you can grow as a ground cover amongst the bigger vegetables (they will reseed and be there forever).
Right now you are better off buying a packet of everything, plant, and see what sticks, and of those that stick, what you like. The greens growing under the peas and the favas will get enough nitrogen that they won't need fertilizer.
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simy1 wrote:

Diane
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Don't forget to check with your County Extension office! They can help with local conditions/varieties, etc.
http://danr.ucop.edu/danrdir/uccequery.cfm
John! (who works with GA Extension)
Diane McGill wrote:

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This website has a section on winter gardens: http://www.westsidegardener.com/quick/winter_veggies.html
This book is highly recommended: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman, Kathy Bray (Illustrator), Barbara Damrosch (Photographer)
Just happened to come across this forum when searching for the exact name of the book above: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/fourseason /
Also, I've found that most seed suppliers now have sections on winter gardening and suggest planting times and best varieties. Check your favorite supplier's website.
Good luck, LJ in BC

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excellent website. Territorial Seeds is one that focusses exclusively on the northern gardener (and the one I buy from. They have lettuces that overwinter in Michigan under minimal cover. Really).
Diane, though, can plant virtually anything, given her minimum temps of around 32. She might not be able to get some of the longest season veggies before it gets hot, such as Brussels sprouts, long season cabbage, and parsnips. But she can get just about everything else. The trick is to get something on the ground now that will be ready in 30 days, and something that will be ready in 45, and something that will be ready in 60. Given the poor quality of the soil peas are a must, though I myself am partial to favas, which are equal in taste to peas but condition the soil much better, and also are a tremendous green manure. But favas make such a jungle, you can not really grow anything underneath.
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I'm south of you in Bakersfield. There are lots of things to plant. Rarely has the weather ever killed my plants...... lettuce, carrots, radishes, turnips, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Check with your local cooperative extension

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UC Davis published a book just for California. It's the best. Choose a Crop http://vric.ucdavis.edu/veginfo/veginfor.htm http://vric.ucdavis.edu/usesites/ressite.htm#garden http://vric.ucdavis.edu/usesites/ressite.htm

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the most valuable thing you can do with a square foot of winter ground is store the coolth. Put out soda bottles full of water. Store them in a heavily insulated toolshed. Like the old-timey ice houses. Fiberglass batt isn't all that expensive. put aluminum foil on the shed to reflect sunlight away, gains less heat.
Ice is incredibly good storage of coolth because it freezes at a very low (relative to room temp) temperature, and because the heat-of-fusion of water is so darn big. But if you don't have freezes, you don't have freezes. Store the cold water anyway.
Air Conditioners chew up VERY large amount of electricity. Each BTU of cooling power, that you can seasonally harvest instead of machine-produce, is money in your pocket.
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