I believe autumn gardening in Southern California is different in comparison to other parts of the country because the weather here (at least where I live) tends to be a bit kinder, at least in regards to temperature. In my neck of the woods we’ll still sometimes get sharper temperature drops and overnight frost once you get closer to winter but overall the warmer climate allows more freedom when it comes to gardening, especially if you’re close to the coast and can benefit from the humidity as well. The herbs I grow (thyme, oregano, chives, sage, and rosemary) do well all year-round because the climate here is ideal for them, particularly when a hot summer transitions into a wet autumn (the oregano actually does a little too well sometimes, growing so quickly that it takes over an entire corner of my garden bed!).
Basil is also a good choice for this climate; growing it in summer can be risky because it tends to bolt almost as badly as cilantro in extreme heat, but if you manage to keep it going until autumn it can exhibit a lot of beneficial growth once temperatures cool down and the fall rains begin. Depending on the weather conditions, some summer tomato plants can also keep growing and producing even in fall (so far this autumn is getting off to a bit of a wet start because of some monsoonal thunderstorms passing through, but last year we had a heat wave that lasted well into October and my cherry tomato plants absolutely loved it).
Generally speaking, when it comes to autumn gardening I focus on keeping my herbs going while also planting a couple fresh crops. For me, spinach and chard are both good choices because they do quite well in fall and winter (it’s important to watch out for cabbage butterflies, though; while the caterpillars that hatch from their eggs prefer munching on cruciferous vegetables, they’ll lay eggs on leafy greens too and if you’re not paying enough attention they can decimate your plants).
Ultimately, maintaining a garden in my area of Southern California during this time of year involves picking plants that will do well whether it’s a hot autumn or a wet autumn (although it can also be fun to experiment with varieties that aren’t normally fall/winter crops but can be grown here because of the warmer climate). That being said, if you live in this sort of climate and aren’t sure about which vegetables to grow I strongly recommend focusing on herbs since their hardy nature suits the environment very well, and they’re both a fragrant and pragmatic addition to any vegetable garden.
Written by Alison Petitt